Prefix: This post is aimed around discussing hero design, what makes them tick and will try to help people in designing their heroes.
Why: Because I like looking at user made material for stuff like this and WC3/Starcraft UMS, that sort of thing, but I detest user made material that sucks. Considering that S2 wants to put community heroes in the game, I might have to play one of them someday (or vice versa) so I would like to ensure that such heroes are of the highest design calibre. With S2's DREAM program recently released a slew of hero suggestions (along with a method of rating them which may be easily exploited by having a lot of friends) have emerged to the public eye.
This post is generated from seeing far too many hero suggestions, examining them as critically as possible, noticing a large number of certain trends and problems/ issues with each one. After spending a lot of time thinking about the way heroes are designed in HoN/DotA, I've drawn a lot of conclusions, discovered several generalisations and other wotnotz and have brought them all together in this document.
To sort of show what I mean, I'm going to look at the highest current rated hero on DREAM and anaylse it. Going by the (easily exploitable) DREAM system, this should be the finest designed hero there.'
This hero is meant to be a ganker/initiator but the str gain of 2.7 is quite high, almost carry-level strength, but the other two stats aren't that great either. For an early-mid game oriented hero you really gotta give them crappy stats because they're not meant to scale very well late game and stat tweaking is part of that.
The first skill doesn't seem to fit in the mold of initiator/ganker; infact it almost seems like a carry skill. Why should a ganker/inititor incur a positional disadvantage for extra attack speed that he shouldn't be using? Or extra movement speed either; he is supposed to burst arseloads of stuns and damage in a very small space of time. Let's see the other skills, perhaps there is synergy afoot here (after all, Behemoth is the best initiator in the game and he has Enrage)
The second skill is rather overcomplicated for what it has to do. It's regular mode reads as 'like behemoths fissure but without the ground-****ing' but then it also comes with a lot of unnecessary caveats and has an alternate mode which seems to be the same spell but in reverse? I dunno. My point here is that Abilities in this game shouldn't feel like this.
The third skill is extremely counterintuitive to his ganker/initiator mindset and should be scraped completely. He hasn't got time to dick around and gather charges, he has to GET THE HELL IN THERE RIGHT BLOODY NOW, MKAY! and start messing people up. Compare this ability to Balphagore's Hell on Newerth. HoN cannot be used before the fight starts, much like this one cannot (or at least shouldn't).
And the fourth ability almost does too much for what it reads, but w/e. It's a fine ganking ability, but it should require him to be closer. Why? He's a strength hero, and getting the **** in there is how they operate. Str gankers like Pudge and Pandamonium, Gauntlet and Deadwood are all about getting right in your opponents' face and giving them, as my friend Mike would say, the ol' in-out, in-out, but this could feasibly be used to start ganks which is not the right idea (you don't start ganks with Silver Bullet, you use graveyard first and see if you have to blow your ulti later to get the kill)
You see what I mean? This guy is the most popular right now and already I've picked out some fairly large problems with him. This is why a guide showing people how to do this sort of thing properly is necessary, I don't want to play this guy and neither should you. Not yet anyway.
To illustrate my points I shall design a hero of my own and adhere to the design philosophies I have outlined here. Here's hoping she's pretty good!
PART ONE: HERO ROLE
So, You want to create a hero eh? Where do you start? First, let's examing hero Roles. The main roles are:
Carry- A carry features scaling abilities which are (mostly) dependant on securing a lot of gold and items. There are two kinds of carries; ranged and melee, and the differences between them are actually pretty significant.
Ranged carries are far easier to babysit in the lane as they don't risk getting hurt trying to get a last hit. Ranged carries do not benefit from Logger's Hatchets for sweet last hitting easy and most Ranged Carries have excellent lane presence anyway. Ranged carries also don't have to chew up a whole load of stuns/nukes to try and get some damage done, but (and this is rather important) ranged carries generally do NOT have an effective escape measure.
This is a huge difference between melee and ranged carries and it makes ganking them very different. If I land a Rotten Grasp on scout he's just going to vanish out of there, but if I rotten grasp Puppetmaster the sucker is going to get punched. Melee carries are hugely dependant on some method getting themselves to their enemy and/or away from their enemy (Vanish, Blink, Time Leap, Venomous Leap, Metamorphasis, Mirage + Desert's Curse, Blood Sense, Sword Throw, Gust, Charging Strikes, Blade Frenzy + tp, Flight, Galvanise, Permanant Invisilibilty. Stampede. See what I mean?) Consider this when designing your carries.
The other thing about carries is that they have scaling abilities which are not necessarily physical attack modifiers. Example, Soul Reaper. SR does most of his damage in the later team fights with his aura and his ultimate and his goal is to remain as alive as possible throughout the teamfight to spam his expensive 5sec cd nuke and aura as hard as possible. Sand Wraith will reflect 20% of all damage, so as long as he has a hp pool large enough to reflect a rather large amount of damage he'll carry just fine. Predator does 7% of a targets max hp in physical damage per attack, making landing an attack about as important as having a high physical damage.
And finally, Carries require something to help them farm, such as an AoE nuke or a cleave or just, well, Something. Other then that, feel free to give your carries whatever abilities you like, as long as they don't become too powerful at a different role and thus overly strong overall.
SUPPORT: Support heroes are generally item independant, very powerful in the lane and scale poorly as the game goes on. No hero in this game is a pure support hero as they all have some kind of offensive/other capibility. For example, despite having 3 support skills Keeper of the Forest has a rather strong initiation tool. Demented's Healing Wave can nuke unwary foes down rather sharply, and synergises well with extra illusions/minions as well as, you know, healing people.
The reason no support hero has only support skills is because pure support is boring. Most people say taht Keeper is the most boring hero in the game and it's obvious why; he hardly does anything if he has no ultimate. Yawn. The other thing is that all heals have an offensive part to them; Volatile Pod, Judgment, Healing Wave, Inner LIght, Cauterise/Fire Shield, Heartache, and SORT OF Moko, but not really. This is important to keeping them fun to play, no-one wants to sit on their arse all day handing out buffs and sighing when the carry THEY should of been playing has 50 gold per min. And you're playing EM.
ROAMERS/NUKERS/GANKERS: Technically, a character with strong nukes is not necessarily a ganker, so I'm going to put them both here to discuss them. Nukers are heroes like Witch Slayer, Wretched Hag, Torturer, ThunderBringer, Blacksmith and Pebbles. They have 2+ abilities which read; hurt someone a LOT and are designed to chain these together to take a lot of hp away from an enemy in a very short space of time. These heroes are really great at setting up painful laning combinations (blacksmith and pyro, for example, is goign to cook some poor bugger riiiiiiiiight up) and for helping someone with some solid disable/stuns secure hero kills.
Gankers are a somewhat different breed. I define ganker as someone who can start a gank from 1000+ range. This is important because a well executed gank cannot be feasibly seen coming without wards. A pyro has to run within 600 units to stun his target and start nuking, which is far too close. Gankers also need to blow all their abilities/damage in roughly 4 seconds and kill their target in that time. They cannot afford to dick around too long under the enemies tower, after all! Good ganker heroes are Devourer, Valkyrie, Andromeda, Chipper, Deadwood, Wretched Hag, Pharoah, Bloodhunter and Fayde. Each one of these can target someone for death from a large distance without player assistance, and most of them can burst a large amount of damage to secure the kill quickly.
Roamers are gankers that can do their stuff from lvl 1, as opposed to gankers who generally prefer to be lvl 6 and nukers who need to be lvl 3 preferably. Andromeda and Ophelia are the quintessential roamers (Ophelia herself even says "we shall roam", it's kinda obvious), as they have extremely powerful lvl 1-3 abilities that also scale rather poorly faster then gankers. To get the most out of a roamer requires a very dedicated team linup and coordination, so don't really try to make a dedicated roaming character because people will quickly grow to hate it.
INITIATORS. Initiators go first and put a lot of enemies in a bad situation so the rest of your team can follow up. A good initiation can make or break a team fight quite easily without requiring too much farm so it's important to make sure your initiators are not otherwise too strong (remember old Chronos? Yeah...). Behemoth, Legonnaire, Tempest, Keeper of the Forest and Hellbringer are all fantastic initiators, and so is Portal Key + ANY aoe stun (like pebbles for instance!). Initators should also expect a swift butt****ing afterwards because they went first so also don't make them overly tanky either (once again, remember good ol' Chronos? Yeah-yeah...). Again, there is no such thing as a dedicated initiator (except maybe Kraken?) so don't try and make your hero a hard-initiator, give him somethign else to do but make the focus his initiation.
PUSHERS. Pushers serve three functions, first they do a crapload of damage that is not necessarily easily aimed and also helps if they can support teammates while doing it. Second, they help people fight under/near a tower without much fear. Third, they can benefit from all the farm they are getting from pushing towers and murdering loads of creeps doing it. Great pushing heroes are Defiler, Engineer, Nymphora, Ophelia and Hellbringer. These heroes are great because they can do extra damage to the tower which is not easily done to enemy heroes, they can clear creep waves down in moments and provide somethign to tank tower/creep hits with. Again, there should be no such thing as a hard-pusher, it should just be part of what a hero can do in conjunction with a different role (ie, carrying with Engi or defiler, or supporting with ophelia and nymphora)
NICHE ROLES: When I say niche I mean giving a hero a particularly strong affinity with a certain strategy or counter strategy. For example, Kraken is good at initiating with his ultimate, but he is also extremely difficult to push into the base against because he can drag your team a VERY long way from Kansas; right under the base towers, and proceed to rip the enemy apart. No other initator can do that!
Conversly, an anti-role is something like Fayde's original design intention. Idejder intended Fayde to be something of an anti-jungler ganker, to fight ophelia/tempest/zephyr/warbeast/wildsoul etc. Of course she can gank sidelanes just fine but she cannot really tower dive like Pudge or Valk can, now can't she? Considering such niches is all part of what keeps 60+ heroes unique, so do try and put them into your hero but also don't lock your hero directly into the niche; they should still be able to perform their appointed role (fayde still ganks and kraken still buttrapes teams when he whirpools them).
EXAMPLE HERO: Recently there was an agility pusher contest, so let's role with that eh? I intend to design a Pusher/Support hero with the Niche that her support abilities scale as the game goes on. Whilst she does not necessarily become a carry like Soul stealer or Soul Reaper, she will support better at lvl 16 then demented does (and conversely, she'll be worse at supporting at the earlier levels, unless she gets some good farm going of course!) This is the overall outline, and we shall try and ensure the hero does not stray from her role.
PART TWO: HERO TYPE
There are 5 different types of heroes, Agility melee, Agility Ranged, Intelligence Melee, Intelligence Ranged and Str Melee (no Str ranged exists yet, obviously! In Dota there was only 1 as I recall, much as there is only 1 intell melee). Generally speaking, heroes follow certain conventions based on their type.
STRENGTH HEROES are ballers who are designed to get right up to their enemies, soak up damage and have lots of strong close ranged abilities to reflect the dangerous nature of their role. This is how ALL strength heroes work so I'm not going to bother listing some examples because there are none. Whether they are tanking, ganking, spanking, pushing or carrying, str heroes should encourage, nay require, the player to get right into their opponents face.
INTELLIGENCE HEROES are more careful and are more reliant on their spells then their auto attacks or health bars. Int heroes generally have the longest ranged spells and most of them can safely engage enemies behind a row of friendly and (hopefully) much tougher heroes so they don't get hurt. Int heroes generally scale poorly as their spells lose effect over time and because most int heroes rely on their spells to do all their work for them, they are rather item independant. This is something of a generalisation mind, some of them can be dodgy bastards like Puppet and ranged carry.
AGILITY HEROES require more devious and 'finesse' playstyles. I put finesse in quotation marks because this implies there's less skill in playing not agility heroes, which is slander! Anyway, melee agis lack the tankiness of strength heroes and the long ranged safety of intelligence heroes so they make up for it in late game scaling power! And also excellent positioning abilities, like blinks and invisibility. Ranged agi's are a bit different, they are a mix of some good spells and excellent scaling, but not necessarily with the better positioning of melee agi. Generally, agility heroes focus on scaling abilities, even if they aren't late game heroes (like Andromedas Dimensional Link).
Occasionally some heroes break from their set molds, usually for good reason. For example, Pebbles has strong nukes, so why is he strength? Simple, because to get his nukes working properly he has to get right up to his them to combo them for maximum effect. Blacksmith has a much higher str gain then int, and is melee. Why is he int? Simple, because someone who has a solid attack speed buff (frenzy) and is meant to be a nuker should NOT be able to carry at the same time! But Icefrog/Idejder wanted him to be a melee nuker who is also pretty tank so they made him str/int.
Like I said though, some heroes do not fit their molds, which is weird. For example, Slither is an agi hero and yet he has absolutely no scaling skills? Why is he not just an int hero? Zephyr is tankier then a division of King Tigers and yet is an agility hero. What's with that? These things I cannot answer.
My primary point is that when you are designing your hero they should fit their roles. If you want a short ranged headkicker, go for strength. Long ranged cowardface, go for int. Cunning trickster, go for agi.
For the example hero, the Pusher/Support she will be Agility/Ranged. As such she will have NO real escape abilities (I intend to put in a slow or perhaps a stun, but nothing like Flash of Darkness for Hag). She will be quite fragile but will also scale quite well as the game goes on.
PART THREE; ABILITIES.
The abilities are, of course, the fundamental aspect of your hero and they allow the hero to perform their appointed role. Some do's and don'ts about designing abilities:
DO- consider how this ability will affect the early/mid/late game and whether it will allow the Hero to perform their role. Should this hero be a strong laner? Then give him a powerful stun like Hammer Throw. Should he play defensively? Then give him some kind of healing power or some kind of postioning/escape ability. Don't worry about making your ability balanced in of itself, just as long as it makse sure the hero works.
DO- consider how it works into the hero type. Remember, str heroes have focus on straight-up combat, int heroes for sticking back a bit and agi heroes more on positioning and subtlety.
DO- try and make good numbers, not just concepts. I rate on numbers as well as concepts beacuse the numbers are important. For example, let's say you are creating Andromeda and her comet skill. If you simply said "ok, this is going to be a stun, w/e" without specifying numbers then you haven't noted that it's a 2 sec stun at ALL levels, which is crucial for andromeda because it allows her to roam so effectively.
DON'T- be afraid to rip off skills from other heroes. For example, pyromancer and defiler have the same wave-nuke spell. But for one it's part of a chain of nukes and for the other it's a farming/mass nuking spell designed to be spammed thanks to a 5 sec cooldown. Madman's Barrel Roll is very similar to Witch Slayer's Graveyard, but they work so very differently on those heroes, madman can stalk and sneak it through wheras witchslayer can harrass quite a lot through constant graveyard + power drains. What's important it that skills work more then them being unique.
DON'T- do oddball stuff like invoker. If S2 wants to port something weird like invoker or meepo then they will do it when and how they feel like it. On a similar note, DON'T use retarded niches for your hero concept. For example, a popular hero suggestion I saw was Sal, a roamer/ganker who had a passive which made him stronger in the river. Sounds pretty good, but HoN has more then Forests of Caldavar; watchtower and that 3v3 one don't HAVE rivers in them so this hero is quite worthless on them. Heroes should be viable no matter what map you are playing, so that was a bad idea. Other weird niche stuff you shouldn't attempt are:
1) wildly crazy chance powers, or chaos effects. Blacksmith is already awful enough, we don't need Mr GameAndWatch in HoN. Again, if S2 wants to port Chaos Knight then they'll do that.
2) specific rune control powers, or anythign else that is made redundant by game modes (eg, passive gold increase abilities are obviously wildly affected by Hardcore and Easy modes).
DO- try and make abilities have multiple uses. This does NOT mean multiple effects, what it means is that you can use a particular ability in multiple roles, or that a set of abilities can be used in different chains. Example, I'm playing Deadwood . I have the choice of either trying to land a Rotten Grasp at long range, getting the armour debuff then blinking in and Willowmaker, or I could reverse the order and try and willowmaker first after an Oak Bolt. The first chain maximises damage and is the most difficult to pull off, and requires the player to think before acting, not just going "ok, enemy, do obvious chain 1/2/3 and kill".
Another example is Pebbles. Pebbles is designed to stalag/chuck foes til they die and that's fine, but later on enemies are too strong for this combo. What do you do? Easy, you blink in and chuck your opponent's carry STRAIGHT into the waiting arms of your teammates, or throw a mate right at the enemy for some free initiation (my friends used to do Panda/Pebbles and save on portal keys like this).
Pandamonium's cannonball can be used to stun/position or it can be used to escape by jumping around a cliff or into trees.
Andromedas Void Rip can be used to isolate an enemy or save a team mate, much like Devourer's Guttling Hook.
Cauterise, Rot, Blood Crazy and Mesmerise can all be used to deny yourself or teammatse, which is obviously favourable to simply dying.
See what I mean? These are all fun heroes because their abilities are not point and click, it takes a skilled player to use them to their fullest.
DO- encourage synergy with hero abilities. There are two types of synergy; Forced synergy and Implied synergy. Forced is something like Tinker, Enlarge, Power in Death, Fervor, Lightning rod, abilities which are themselves useless but make others more powerful. These are useful in making a bland ability, like wave of death, more appropriate for what that hero needs it to do. Implied synergy is a pair of abilities that have to be used togeter, liek Phoenix Wave and Dragon Fire. These abilities do not become more powerful as a result of being used together like Chuck/stalag, but you have to use them together to get the most of Pyro's intended damage role.
There is no set way to make your hero synergise and it is encouraged not to make your hero solely reliant on ability synergy to the point where they are locked into a single spell chain with a narrow range of uses.
DO- imagine how it would feel to play your hero and build the skills you have designed. This is a common ****-up I see when I read usermade heroes; they haven't imagined what it would be like to
DO- try to balance out how much raw damage and CC you give your hero, and try not to go overboard with anything. To illustrate this point, look at Soulstealer and Defiler. They each to retarded amounts of damage, SS can burst 900 aoe nukes at lvl 7 (that's like a pyro lvl 16 ulti 9 levels in advance, WTF!), and defilers ult just ruins and she doesn't even have to do anything! However, these heroes have NO escapes and NO cc of any kind, except a bit of a slow on ss's ulti and silence, those don't really count. This links back to my 'numbers are part of the concept' point, and it's quite important.
DO- give abilities that don't seem in theme with the character's main role. A lot of people were pissed off when chipper got that Focus Buffer ability as it was this weird seemingly counterintuitive defensive skill when he has these ganking aggressive ones. But it works in that Chipper is meant to scale poorly and have more of a later support role. Blacksmith and Plague Rider are EXACTLY the same in this respect, and these are the wonderful Icefrog heroes we are all supposed to hail as Demigods.
PART FOUR; STATS AND BRINGING IT ALL TOGETHER
Stat boosts are quite simple to put in really, just get what your hero is supposed to do and give them high stats for them, particularly carries. Carries get 2.7+ at their necessary stat because they NEED it. Non-carries get crappy alternate stats, particularly agility. For example, look at pebbles. His skills give him loads of burst damage but his crippling lack of attack speed and agility means he struggles to carry later in the game.
As for bringing it all together, well, the main thing to do is imagine what it would be like to play your hero and how to manage items, synergies with heroes and skills and how it would play in the lane, in small teamfights, pushing and defending and all out aggression.
PART FIVE- CONCLUSION
There's not a lot to say here other then to hope that this guide was helpful to your understanding of hero design and that as a result you create a real gem for S2 to put in the game.
NOTE- I will post this up once I finish trying to design the example hero Anathema. I don't want to **** that up you see...