The good news is that it sounds like Blizzard is changing most everything for the better. The frustrating news is that everyone's current ranking is going to be reset.
Just in time for its exodus from beta, Blizzard announced a bunch of adjustments the developer will be making to its new MOBA Heroes of the Storm's competitive ranked gameplay modes following today's release.
A quick reminder: The game currently has two different ranked modes: Hero League and Team League, the latter of which is reserved exclusively for pre-made teams of five. Both are ranked along a scale from 1 to 50, 1 being the best rank. The main bullet points concerning incoming changes to ranked are as follows:
- Blizzard is going to add a "Placement Phase" that Heroes players will participate in to receive a starting rank before officially entering either of the two ranked gameplay modes: Hero League and Team League. Currently, players all start out at 50 when entering Hero League and Team League. They can then work their way up the rankings (1 being the highest) by winning games.
- Since rank 1 is "currently an open ended rank for those who have reached a high level of skill," the developer is adding an even more prestigious honorific for the very best Heroes players: Grandmaster. Blizzard's announcement predicts that Grandmaster-level players in both Hero League and Team League will end up being divided along an internal ranking scheme in the future. Players who achieve Grandmaster status also get this cool gold border they can put on their in-game profile portrait:
- Pre-made teams of five will automatically be added to Team League. Going forward, only parties of four or less players can queue up for Hero League together.
- Similar to the system League of Legends has in place for its ranked mode, Heroes of the Storm's ranked modes will follow a seasonal schedule. Blizzard said that they're tentatively planning to have each season last three months, with the first one starting some time after launch. At the beginning of a new season, players will go through the aforementioned "Placement Phase" to determine what rank they're qualified for.
Ranked or not-ranked, Heroes of the Storm is in such an embryonic state at the moment that it's hard to say what impact these changes will have on the game. But at the very least, it's nice to see Blizzard adding more of an institutionalised structure to ranked play — especially since so many new players are flooding into the game right now. Pre-release, for instance, the biggest problem many players had with Hero League was that it felt like more of a grind than a competitive gameplay mode — something people could progress through simply by playing a ton of games, rather than demonstrating any legitimate skill. While Blizzard maintains that players ultimately reach "a plateau that accurately reflects their skill" in ranked gameplay, adding qualifiers like placement matches should help them get to that point more quickly.