Blizzard Banned a Popular 'Heroes of the Storm' Character For Being So OP

Can e-sports fix what's broken before it breaks?


Blizzard is hoping to make a splash into the ever-growing MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) with Heroes of the Storm. But to break in, they have to ensure nothing is broken. Something broke.

During the 2015 Intel Extreme Masters tournament in Shenzhen, China last week, a player from Korean pro-team MVP Black used popular character Zeratul in a peculiar way, pitting it against rivals in their grand final match. It was a glitch that overpowered one of Zeratul’s special attacks that made him a raging tornado and the others Kansas.

In response, Blizzard temporarily pulled the popular character from tournament play. “Temporary” wasn’t clear at first, and so the ban caused a minor kerfuffle and speculation with fans — pro squad Team Liquid depend on Zeratul — igniting debates that are as intricate and entertaining as AM sports radio.

The bug affected a special move called “Shadow Assault,” which allows Zeratul — a stealth character with high damage, low health — to boost his speed by about 20%. It’s useful for a character who is basically a really deadly meer kat.

But what the glitch affected was Zeratul’s distance. While he’s deadly, he can’t jump across the map to get you, he can only kill from a short distance. The bug allowed Zeratul to pinball from one to another: By targeting the next victim at the right time, Zeratul could continue his wrath from target to target.

The real kicker about the glitch highlights one suspicion I’ve had for e-sports for some time: Technical hiccups. Could this set a precedent in the future of e-sports, banning elements of the game until (or if) issues are resolved? E-sports is always at the mercy of hardware and software faults, and as e-sports matures into a more legitimate arena, it will be fascinating how the industry will respond to its unforeseen jagged edges that need further smoothing.

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