Volskaya: MIA

Written by: Emperor




It has been about a month since Volskaya Foundry entered the Nexus, and it’s already gone missing. Pros have refused to touch the map with a ten foot pole, and Blizzard announced that they were pulling Volskaya out of the ranked map pool. In the Nexus Games, the map was something akin to a unicorn, only being played twice.

So what happened? Where did Volskaya go? To answer these questions, we need to take a deep dive into the map and study its mechanics.


A Weak Protector



The objective on Volskaya Foundry features a “King of the Hill” zone that spawns at regular intervals. Once a team has reached 100% they are awarded the Triglav Protector, a mech requiring two players to pilot it—or at least that’s what Blizzard intended.

However, it was quickly discovered that the mech was not worth sacrificing two bodies for. The relatively long cooldowns on the Protector’s abilities combined with the ability to switch seats allows one player to rotate between seats and juggle the abilities without missing much DPS at all. This strategy sacrifices some mobility in the process, but the Protector’s high HP gives it plenty of durability while sieging.


An example of how to juggle the Protector’s abilities from Cris’s stream


The gunner seat is also much weaker than the pilot seat, meaning that another body outside of the Protector is often more useful than someone in the gunner seat. According to the statistics we collected in our Math of the Storm article last month, the pilot seat at level 20 has roughly 614 DPS compared to only 373 DPS from the gunner seat. The fact that the pilot also has access to the strongest skill on the Protector—a shield ability comparable to Storm Shield on a 16 second cooldown—only exacerbates the problem.

A single player in the Protector at level 20 needs 50 seconds to bring down the Core, going down to 33 seconds with a gunner. However, this is still slower than a single person in the Dragon Knight or the Garden of Terror. The Protector is obviously designed for teamfights and not pushing unlike the other two objectives, but given the fact that the teamfight is over after you win the objective, the Protector’s teamfight ability seems somewhat redundant.


Fixes for the Protector



If the idea is to optimize the Triglav Protector for two people, there are a few changes Blizzard could try.

1. Removing the ability to switch seats



By removing the ability to switch seats, you would force players to commit two players to get the full value out of the Protector. While this seems like a decent fix in terms of making the decision to commit an extra person to the gunner seat more enticing, the current power level of the Protector is still too low to justify it. Instead, players would likely commit one player for the shield ability or ignore the objective completely.

This fix would also make the Protector clunky to use in uncoordinated teams. Instead of simply switching seats by changing the seat before the other player enters the Protector, you would instead to have leave and rejoin the Protector in the correct order and hope your teammates understand what you are doing.

2. Decreasing the cooldowns
on the Protector’s abilities



Decreasing the cooldowns on the Protector’s abilities would make it far harder for a single person to juggle the abilities effectively and maintain a considerable DPS. Naturally, the numbers would have to be tweaked to make sure it is balanced.

The unfortunate side effect of this change might be a hell-level DDR simulation. With so many highly specialized abilities flying around, it might be possible to lose track of what’s going on.

[image loading]

3. Scaling the stats of the Protector depending on whether there are one or two players in it



If the Protector scales based on the number of people piloting it, the gunner seat becomes far more important. You can buff the objective and fix the problem of a single player operating both seats at the same, a nice double whammy for the balance team.

However, making the Protector require two people might limit the amount of strategy by completely eliminating single-person operations of the mech.

And if you do need two people to operate the Protector efficiently, who do you put in it? Do you put your tank and bruiser and leave your back line incredibly exposed? Do you put one of your healers in it? Your hyper carry? The game is designed so efficiently around four man groups that limiting that group to only three might actually make teamfighting with the Protector worse than fighting without.


Long Games and Useless Merc Camps


Due to the inherent weakness of the Protector, situations that would have been game-ending on other maps are not on Volskaya. This issue is further compounded by the mercenary camps featured on the map. With the exception of the top lane camp, both the Fortification camp and the Support camp directly aid in contesting the objective. Neither the health pack or the turret hold any real pushing value on their own, making for rather lackluster sieging opportunities outside of the objective.

[image loading]
The mercs on Volskaya are unique but ultimately useless outside of winning the objective


The top lane troopers are not reliable either, as the lack of splash makes them weak at pushing a lane by themselves. In the earlier stages of the game, they are far too weak to do anything. Later on, they scale decently and have enough DPS that pushing with them might be potentially valuable, but they are far from serious threats.

Adding other camps with more pushing power could open up some alternative strategies and allow a winning team to end the game more quickly. Of course, without a buff to the objective itself, the map would quickly turn into another Infernal Shrines where early game objectives are often forsaken for more soaking and split pushing.


The Merry-Go-Round


Another problem plaguing the map is the conveyer belts spread across the map. Although it can initially be seen as a cool gimmick, there are some glaring problems. First of all, they have several unexpected interactions that make them unpredictable. Rotating Void Prisons, rooted heroes, Mosh Pits, etc. all add some degree of unpredictability to teamfights and make it far more difficult to maneuver than necessary.

Second, some of the conveyor belts are in the most obtuse positions. The conveyor belts in the center of the map make rotations between the bottom lane and the middle lane awkward and generally dissuade big rotations. The bottom control point is absolutely chaotic and impossible to navigate without a pre-emptive engagement to secure kills.

[image loading]


Conveyor belts also heavily punish heroes without mobility abilities, which pushes the game even further towards mobile characters. Moving backwards on a conveyor belt is almost the same as standing still, so only heroes with mobility skills like Genji or Tracer can move comfortably against the conveyor belt. This detail further narrows the pool of contested heroes and makes drafting stale.


Conclusion



Volskaya Foundry disappeared as quickly as it came. On the surface, Volskaya had several interesting new mechanics that created a unique flavor not found on other maps, but the Protector doesn’t make sense and is simply not strong enough for what it’s supposed to do.

The conveyer belts, despite looking cool, are incredibly frustrating to play around and push the meta even further towards hyper mobile heroes. If there were alternative strategies to fighting at the objective, the map might not have been so frustrating to play, but with no reliable camps for split pushing, the map is completely one dimensional.

Like Hanamura, it's a map that attempted to do too much. Poor execution combined with a rather lackluster map layout makes it uneventful, repetitive, and ultimately a failure. Considering its removal from ranked play, it's likely to go back to the drawing board for redesign—a map gone MIA.





Markus "Emperor" L?tveit is a Heroes of the Storm enthusiast who, outside of writing articles for TL, lives the esports life. A normal day in the life of Markus consists of competing in StarCraft 2 tournaments, running marathons, and teaching esports.

If you want to see more of him, check him out on Twitter.





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RaiKageRyu
Canada4640 Posts
Hmmm both Hana and Volsk were OW maps. Seems like the dev team is having a hard time translating the OW fantasy into HotS maps.
ClanRH.TV
United States461 Posts
While I agree with the punisher being underwhelming, I can't say I agree with the rest of the articles rather cynical attitude towards the map. I happen to absolutely love VF (including the conveyor belts) and I don't think the aesthetics could be any better. Rather than a fair assessment of the maps pros and cons, this article sounds more like one disgruntled players bashing of a rather fun map. Of course, this is my opinion.
EsportsJohn
United States4199 Posts
On November 29 2017 08:33 RaiKageRyu wrote:
Hmmm both Hana and Volsk were OW maps. Seems like the dev team is having a hard time translating the OW fantasy into HotS maps.


Honestly, I think it just has to do with useless mercs. It's an interesting idea to implement camps that provide tools to win teamfights instead of pushing, but the main problem with that is that it removes an important aspect of macro play—that is, the tension between having to clear waves and defend your structures vs fighting the other team over an objective. If dedicated pushing isn't an issue, then all you have is teamfighting.

In hindsight, perhaps the idea behind Volskaya was to give one team a superior teamfighting tool so that they could fight while another player provided the split push pressure. However, the windows of opportunity for split pushing on such a big map were limited, and often you would get better results from grouping as 5 (which is no surprise given the nature of the game).

I have no doubt that Volskaya would improve drastically if merc camps from other maps were literally copy-pasta'd in.



On a personal note, I hate, hate, hate the conveyor belts. And Nazeebo.
Thax
Belgium1053 Posts
My main problem with this map is that it is boring. Both gameplay wise and visually. It's huge with huge open spaces and almost nothing interesting going on between the lanes. I don't think I've ever seen anyone be ganked between the lanes on this map. The mercs are not impactful enough to take risks for, and the conveyors basically close off large parts of the map because people tend to completely avoid them.
Emperor
Norway68 Posts
On November 29 2017 11:23 ClanRH.TV wrote:
While I agree with the punisher being underwhelming, I can't say I agree with the rest of the articles rather cynical attitude towards the map. I happen to absolutely love VF (including the conveyor belts) and I don't think the aesthetics could be any better. Rather than a fair assessment of the maps pros and cons, this article sounds more like one disgruntled players bashing of a rather fun map. Of course, this is my opinion.


Hey, the article was meant to highlight the flaws of the map and how it potentially could be made better. Thats not to say that the maps dosent have good sides. Like you mentioned the aesthetics are really good for example. However from a purely gameplay centered perspective, i think my criticism is completely valid. Sorry if it came off as cynical bashing, that was not my intention.
MotherFox
United States1521 Posts
On November 29 2017 23:19 Emperor wrote:
Show nested quote +


Hey, the article was meant to highlight the flaws of the map and how it potentially could be made better. Thats not to say that the maps dosent have good sides. Like you mentioned the aesthetics are really good for example. However from a purely gameplay centered perspective, i think my criticism is completely valid. Sorry if it came off as cynical bashing, that was not my intention.


I completely understood where the article was coming from with regards to the Protector, at least. If I were to make a quick statement of the virtues of Volskya, it would be something like this:

Volskya is a really great 3 lane map due to its interesting lane rotations, great objective battlegrounds, and the first vehicle which requires more skill and strategy to play than "use most of your abilities on cooldown.

  • Lane rotations: Due to the innovative belt mechanics of the map, not all lane transitions are the same length. This difference in transition time makes rotations between mid and bot particularly interesting, since there is obviously more efficiency going one way than the other.
  • Great Objective Battlegrounds: Similar to lane rotations, belts on the battlegrounds make each of the three objective battlegrounds unique. For instance, there are fewer locations for a good mosh pit on the bottom objective battleground. These extreme differences in geography force teams to approach teamfights at each location in very different ways.
  • Vehicle usage: With the garden terror and dragon knight, you largely can spam the abilities and make good use of them--- with the notable exception of kicking someone with the dragon knight(don't do it). The Protector's abilities are not quite as mundane. When there are two people piloting the protector, frequently it is in your best interest to coordinate the abilities to some extent. Holding the pilot's hand/root ability, for instance, for an opportune moment can be the difference between nothing happening and getting a kill on an enemy teammate. I'm not saying the Protector is the complex to use, or that the abilities are hard to use--- but there is certainly more skill in using them than the other vehicles in the game.


Notably most of the things that I think are the map's greatest assets the author disapproves of.

Also, the turrets are not useless for push potential---- they just require active pushing. You'll get decent value if you push a minion wave into towers or a fort, plop down the turret, and then walk away. In a way they are a little superior from a game design perspective than other merc camps in the game since they require active choices in how to use them rather than just passively increasing pressure on a lane.
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