Well, the Necromancer returns at last, but as is often the case with new Diablo content, it’s going to a different Blizzard game.
— Heroes of the Storm (@BlizzHeroes) January 21, 2016
Gamespot got a good Q&A with one of the HotS devs which has some excellent stuff. Here’s an excerpt of the Necromancer portion, and you should check out the full article for a lot more HotS info.
Dustin: Nope, but that would have been a good idea. I like your thinking there!
These characters have been moved around several times, so the fact that they’re together is kind of an accident. Necromancer has been a character that’s been asked about for quite some time. Since 2013 people have been asking about Necromancer, and now we’ve finally got a kit that we were happy with. The idea for Li-Ming the Wizard actually started as specifically as, “Is there an easy-to-understand, but very high skill cap hero that we can do? An assassin, someone who can really blow people on. Who would that go on?”
We were looking around and we had this idea for a hero that was going to reset their cooldowns after they participated in an assist or a kill. Then Wizard came up as an option.
So one was motivated specifically by players asking for the character, and one was we had an idea for some gameplay we wanted to do, and asking who could make that work for us.
Xul the Necromancer is the first Diablo II-exclusive player character you are adding to the game. Was it difficult to recreate this character from a much older game to make it look like he fit in with the aesthetic of Heroes of the Storm?
I don’t think art was as big a concern. We did Lost Vikings before, who don’t fit in at all. Even our older games like Warcraft 3, if you go back and look, the art doesn’t really directly translate from then to today. I think art is less of a concern, we’re really going for something that reminds you of that character. What made Necromancer especially challenging for us was more on the creative side. Because most people remember the Necromancer as a billion skeletons. There’s only so many skeletons our game can handle before it becomes very noisy, difficult to read, and he becomes invulnerable to all kinds of skillshots because of all the skeletons in the way. So he was more challenging to get something that was close to the Necromancer fantasy, to make it playable within the context of our game.
Did you work closely with the Diablo team to do that?
Some. A lot of the teams give us a lot of latitude when it comes to these heroes. They know that we’re going to be using these characters, they know that we’re going to treat them with as much love as respect as we can while shoving them violently into our game. They’ve been very supportive of the work that we’ve done. We give them a heads-up when we’re doing stuff, but they’re generally very supportive of our efforts.
With characters like the Necromancer, there’s a huge pool of skills in Diablo II to choose from. How many iterations did you have to go through to tweak this character to be suitable for HOTS?
Wizard was fairly quick, as far as things go. Once we tested Magic Missile, we really liked that. Arcane Orb really worked the way we wanted it to. Disintegrate went in early and stayed there for quite some time. Necromancer went through quite a battle. Necromancer was back and forth many, many times. We had versions of the Necromancer that was all about skeletons. We had a sufficiently frustrated Necromancer who was named “I have no skeletons at all! Where my skeletons be at?!” at one point. So Necromancer had a lot more iteration time to get there.
I think that was also difficult because so many people had different ideas of what [the hero] should be. People remember different skills. Corpse explosion was something a lot of people remembered. It really depends on how you played it, and people became very passionate about which version of the Necromancer should ultimately go into the game. That was months and months. And I don’t mean months to build, all characters take months to build. But I think there were… if we’re supposed to be in a concept phase for a hero for six to eight weeks, he was easily twelve or more.
Anyone moved to try out HotS just to get some Necro on? Anyone belatedly outraged that the Necro never made it into D3 (useless NPC doesn’t count) but now he shows up in some MOBA title?