March 14, 2017.
That was the last time a Specialist Hero was released in Heroes of the Storm.
Is this just a coincidence or an intentional design choice on the part of Team 1?
There have been 13 other Heroes released since Probius was released almost a year ago. All fit their designated roles fairly well. This is worth noting because one of the biggest challenges with Specialists is that they don’t have a clearly defined role or playstyle.
It is fairly obvious, even to new players, what Assassins, Warriors, and Supports do.
Sure, there are some Heroes who are more of a main tank and others that are more of a bruiser. But you have a similar dynamic in WoW with main tanks and off tanks so that isn’t too difficult for players to get their heads around. The same logic applies for Supports. Some Heroes are capable of solo healing while others are better as a secondary supports, which also happens in WoW.
Specialists fall outside the holy trinity of tank, healer, and DPS, which makes their role harder to define. This is especially true for players who don’t have a MOBA background. There are no junglers in WoW.
The closest analogy might be the person who farms all the mats to create flasks and food for the raid. They won’t be in any of the fights but they provide valuable buffs to the group. In the case of Specialists, these buffs come in the form of XP, lane push, and Mercenary Camps.
Specialists aren’t confusing just because their role is hard to define. They also have vastly different play styles.
Medivh and Zagara are both Specialists but their purpose and playstyles are drastically different. The same goes for Abathur and Sgt. Hammer or The Lost Vikings and Gazlowe.
It doesn’t help that Specialists can also be tough to balance. We have seen several phases in the Meta where certain Specialists become OP because they are strong in both team fights and lane pushing. We have also seen long stretches of the Meta where Specialists are rarely picked because other non-Specialist Heroes can take merc camps and clear lanes just as well without being such a liability in team fights.
The difficulty Specialists present, combined with the long stretch of time without a new Specialist Hero has led many people, myself included, to speculate on the future of Specialists.
Is Team 1 trying to intentionally avoid attaching this label to new Heroes? Are Specialists being phased out? Will we see a reclassification of roles at some point?
I was planning to ask about the prolonged gap in Specialist releases during my Developer interview at Blizzcon but there were so many other topics to discuss that I never got to that question. I really regret not asking it now that it has been four more months and we still haven’t gotten a new Specialist.
Now there is some speculation going around about a potential new Hero based on clues uncovered through PTR data mining. I won’t get into spoilers other than to say that if this Hero did make it into the game that I would expect them to be a Specialist.
What do you think, will we ever get a new Specialist Hero or is that term being phased out?