Plaguebringer Design

When the HoN community balance patch was wrapping up, one of the things I wanted to explore talking about was the Day/Night mechanic in Heroes of Newerth. Being built upon the foundations of DotA, the game transferred over the mechanic from there, but unlike DotA, no heroes directly took advantage of it in terms of abilities. The actual vision ranges of heroes used to vary differently depending on the hero, but that was soon changed. I wanted to explore how this mechanic would work into the game, like on a hero.

Nightstalker, the DotA hero, is highly regarded as some because of his ability to utilize the in-game time. He is incredibly weak during the day, but once night hits, he’s a bat out of hell. Nightstalker gains a strict power increase at night, and his ultimate allows him to make it night in game when the situation demands it.

Now to some, this idea seems fairly well executed, but I don’t enjoy nor think that a strict power scaling is the proper way to handle the design of a hero using day/night in their skills. You have to combat how a direct power increase affects the flow of the game and how the timing of the day/night system coincides with this. Naturally being strong at night, Nightstalker has to struggle somewhat in the early laning phase. Then when the game progresses, Nightstalker only wants to make moves when his ultimate is off cooldown or it is already nighttime, and it creates a strict turtle mindset. This isn’t exactly a bad thing, but the fact that it is coming about because a hero is intentionally crippled half of the game and extremely strong the other half make it a poor situation from a designer’s standpoint. It forces an unhealthy gameplay.

So how should a day/night hero be done, if it could be done at all? In my eyes, the design should change how the hero was played, either as a role or function. Nightstalker changed the way you and your team had to play because he was either pathetic or powerful and having such a large fluctuation creates issues with the hero. For me, I wanted my hero to change both in role and how he functioned in that role, and thus, Plaguebringer was born.

For me, I saw the highlights of a day/night hero playing into the role that could capitalize on the vision changes that happen because of in-game time, so I wanted Plaguebringer to be a ganker. With the hero, I noticed there was not a whole lot of exploration in terms of attack ranges in Heroes of Newerth. Only 1 other hero in the game had utilized an attack range of 525, Artesia. The attack range is enough to be suitably ranged for laning, but not enough to warrant harassment in a laning phase, especially with so many 600 and even 550 attack range heroes. This puts an emphasis on Plaguebringer’s stronger spells to help facilitate his ganking prowess.

As for how his abilities were going to interact with the time, I wanted to create a switching idea, much like how an older version of Fayde could choose the range of her skills, to be dependent on the time of day. On one hand, he would have a strong nuking spell as his primary ranged skill and then a point blank AoE aura has his control spell. Then when nighttime hit, his primary ranged spell would be a strong control spell and have a more consistent damage source through a point blank AoE aura. I wanted to have the hero to have the same or very similar similar functions from both of these. I didn’t want him to have say, a silence at nighttime and a disarm during the daytime. A consistent approach to what he could apply, so I went with a very general slow(with an immobilize addition during night). Plaguebringer could always have damage/control no matter the time of day, but how he applied this two sources was dependent on the time of day and both have enough flavor to individualize them. At night, AoE would reduce armor and along with the immobilize to combat the fact that the daytime nuke had incredible power and the slow was consistent. All of this planning shaped its way into his second and third skills, Typhoid/Dysentery and Locust Swarm.

    

While designing the AoE skill, I knew that in order to make it work, he had to be able to atleast survive a decent amount of time for the ramp up of the ability to kick in fully. I had no intention of giving him inherent bulk through his base stats, in fact I wanted more the opposite with those. So while fleshing out the hero, I was reading about scrapped Guild Wars 1 skills. One of which was called Bloodletting which featured a link to the actual practice of Bloodletting on Wikipedia, and from reading the Wikipedia article, I knew it could fit well as a skill. Bloodletting was the practice of drawing blood in order to cure one of diseases and illnesses. So with Bloodletting as a skill, I wanted to have the idea of making Plaguebringer temporarily reduce damage, but attached would be a drawback. Originally I had thought of simply having it be a self purge skill, but I wanted some general usage out of the skill, so it became a secondary nuke for him to utilize while ganking. The drawback of the ability is that the damage that would have been reduced by Bloodletting is applied doubly at the end of the skill, a chance for Plaguebringer to cut himself with a double-edged sword. It creates a period where it gives Plaguebringer enough bulk to deal some sizeable damage, but it also increases the focus of him as a primary target considering an enemy will be essentially doing extra damage to him over time.

The last ability, his ultimate, would have to secure his ideology as a day/night hero. I had gone into the hero design process thinking that I wanted him to be able to choose whether or not his abilities were in day/night mode, but giving him free reign with an ultimate would feel more like a form change and that the day/night addition was simply just a hassle that clicked on form changes. While thinking of how I wanted the ability to function, I original had the mindset of a temporary shift to the opposite time of day for a limited time. Like Bloodletting though, I didn’t feel like this gave enough general purpose for him to be able to accomplish his goals as a ganker, some of his abilities were strong, but not strong enough to have such a weak ultimate. So then came the idea to add a bonus to his abilities for the limited duration of the ultimate, sort of like en empowered version of normal time(think Vegeta making his own moon in Dragonball Z). So the idea came about to make it so that the maximum effect of Locust Swarm was increased and it applied faster, and making Typhoid/Dysentery do more damage during the day/stun instead of immobilize during the night. It was a way of forcing a player to become adept at playing both styles of the hero. You may enjoy having that strong nuke during the day and the annoying slow of the bugs, but if you activate your ult and adapt your playstyle accordingly, you can get a much stronger result from your abilities with an increase from the ultimate. However even though both of his “forms” bring the same thing to the table, the situation may not allow you to effectively offer the same thing, so I decided that it was best not to think of his ult as a trigger to the opposite time, but more of a choice of which time you want. The choice however would have to be serious because of a steep cooldown on the ultimate. You could be in nighttime and trigger an empowered night through his ult, or vice versa with day and we get Red Dawn/Black Death.

So with his skills in general, I wanted to fit the theme of plagues. Plagues dealt their damage over time and dealt massive damage, hence why all of his abilities fall into the “DoT” category. The damage over time aspect allows enemies to react a bit easier, if they react quickly, they usually can prevent the brunt of the damage or even deny allies from the damage in a chance to prevent kills. This exchange allows him to deal more damage  through his DoTs while not being as strong as if a hero did the same damage directly. A slower base movement speed and somewhat taxing manacosts are there to provide some cushion to apply some more overall balance towards the hero. As a ganker, he receives the majority of his damage by level 9 but this could have been delayed depending on how you wish to build him in general.

Lastly, something I tend to forget to talk about is how this hero would add to the game or how he would be drafted. On the outside, it does not seem like a whole lot to go off of to differentiate himself from other heroes. He can fit into heavy DoT lineups to make denying harder as well as fit into -armor lineups through his Locust Swarm at night. Not to mention his self-purge makes him quite suitable against the likes of other DoT users as well as preventing Parasite from transferring harmful debuffs to himself(that Plaguebringer may have inflicted on Parasite). Plaguebringer is definitely an experiment more of changing the way a hero is played by the player, forcing himself and everyone else to atleast be conscious of the night/day difference. During the day, he’s a powerful damaging ganker with a strong damage over time ability and at night, he becomes a more control focused ganker.

There you have it with Plaguebringer. A ganking hero focused on dealing massive damage over time and utilizing the day/night aspect to change how this functions. If you’d like to see the full numbers and cooldowns on the abilities, go to http://dream.heroesofnewerth.com/hero/Reldnahc/Plaguebringer/

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