Cho’gall, a two-headed Ogre, will worm his way through Heroes of the Storm today like a virus, and Blizzard Entertainment designer Kent-Erik Hagman wants you to be ready.
At BlizzCon recently, GamesBeat quizzed him about the new hero, who can be yours for free in the massive online battle arena game — if you’ve got the right friends.
Cho’gall appears during the Buddy Brawl event today for people who have unlocked him with a BlizzCon loot code.
He is the first Heroes of the Storm character that two people control: One player runs Cho, who mostly moves the body around, and the other pilots Gall, the second head, who does most of the damage. It’s a unique mechanic, and it was ridiculous goofy fun in my short playtest. (“No! We’re going over there! Shoot that thing!”)
But don’t “d’awww” if you didn’t go to BlizzCon or watch the stream. During the Buddy event, which lasts until January 1, you can earn Cho’gall for yourself by winning two games while playing as Cho or Gall with someone who already has him. Or the friend of someone who has him who has unlocked him for themselves. And so on.
Cho’gall should spread like wildfire today.
Two players enter, one hero leaves
Hagman, who works on hero design, said the idea for Cho’gall came after the last BlizzCon.
“We were looking at the Vikings, and we loved one player controlling three heroes, and it seemed like only the next logical step to say what’s the inverse of that. What about two players controlling one hero?” he asked. “We were looking across our cast of characters that we have in the works. We have this large list we’re working through.
“So we looked at Cho’gall, and we’ve been looking at him for the past two years, and we’ve always said to ourselves, we’ve got to do something with that stupid second head. It’s just so derpy, it’s just sitting there. There’s got to be something fun there.”
Then the tech to make it work came as part of the development of the game’s Archon Mode, he said, because it allowed characters to be linked together.
“We were looking at the Archon Mode tech, and our engineer’s like, Hey, guys, we could totally do two players controlling a single unit, having to fight themselves for the movement,” Hagman said. “We’re like, that’s awesome! …We don’t actually think that would be a good idea.”
But that tech combined with Cho’gall on the wait list made them take the idea seriously, he said.
“That spurred on a nightmare scenario of how does this even work? Can we have four bodies on the map? From a balance perspective can we pick this hero? Would it be fun to just ride shotgun, because [designer] Dustin [Browder] and I were very adamant from the get-go that hey, let’s not be fighting for movement. We think that would overcomplicate [the game],” Hagman said.
Cho’gall is funny in World of Warcraft because the two heads fight with each other, disagreeing about what to do. But the reality of two players trying to control movement wouldn’t be much fun, he said.
“Suddenly, the barrier to entry rises dramatically,” he said. “Oh, you can’t play this hero unless you’re neural linked, like in Pacific Rim with that guy, because you’re now like, all right, now you take the legs, now you take the legs. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to do [something like Mario Kart] Double Dash someday, because that’s basically what it would be doing. But for the way our game works, we didn’t think that was correct yet.
“So we wanted to restrict one head to riding along. Then there was the question of, Is that going to be fun? That’s not going to be fun, is it?”
Proving two heads were better than one
The only way to really tell would be to try it out. But they didn’t want to put in huge amounts of development time only to discover that the idea needed to be scrapped.
So they did the next best thing, Hagman said: They set up a match where Abathur, a character that can attach himself to another hero, was permanently attached to the warrior-class Arthas and his damage was boosted.
He couldn’t do any of his normal solo attacks, just the limited abilities he had when joined. But it gave the team a chance to try running around as a pseudo-second head.
“We did it and I loved it. I love co-op games in general,” Hagman said. “I think Jack Johnson was correct when he sang that song ‘Everything is Better Together.’ I was the guy who made his girlfriend ride a tandem bike with him, because I was doing research for this hero. This kind of thing is like, I’m this great paired-up person kind of guy. I had a great time riding shotgun.”