Heroes of Newerth puts two teams of players against each other: the Legion and the Hellbourne. Both teams are based at opposite sides of a map. The standard map is split into three continuous 'lanes', running from one base to the other. Defensive towers are positioned evenly through each lane, until the lanes terminate at a team's base. Bases are strongly defended with extra defensive towers, and buildings from which units spawn. These units, termed 'creeps' are spawned every thirty seconds, and run along their lane until they meet opposition - which they then attack. Victory is achieved when one of the teams manages to push into the base of the opposing team, and destroys their primary structure. One team can choose to concede after certain time periods.
Players on each team choose ten of 112 heroes, featuring a variety of abilities and advantages to compensate for any shortcomings. Players control a single hero from a top-down perspective, while common features of real time strategy games such as base management and resource collection are removed. Every hero has four abilities that may be acquired and upgraded as the hero gains experience and levels up. Experience is gained for being within the range of enemy units when they are killed. The maximum level a hero may achieve is 25 and the experience required per level gain increases with each new level. The player obtains gold though periodic income and combat experience, which is used for buying items that increase the power of his or her character. The game ends when the opposing team's main structure is destroyed.
n October 2009, Associate Game Designer Alan "Idejder" Cacciamani claimed that Heroes of Newerth had been in development for "34 months, but the first 13 were spent on engine development. The entirety of assets, including maps, items, heroes, and art were made in 21 months."
New features, balance changes and new heroes are regularly introduced with patches. Most game mechanics and many heroes inHeroes of Newerth are heavily based on Defense of the Ancients. The additions that differentiate Heroes of Newerth from Defense of the Ancients are features independent from game play; such as tracking of individual statistics, in-game voice communication, GUI-streamlined hero selection, game reconnection, match making, player banlists, penalties for leaving and chat features. Several features added via updates include a Hero Compendium (a list of the heroes in the game with detailed statistics about them), the ability to set a "following" trait on a friend which makes the player join/leave the games that a friend joins (similar to the "party" feature in other games), an in-game ladder system, and a map editor. The game uses S2 Games' proprietary K2 Engine and a client-server model similar to that used in many modern multiplayer games.
Heroes of Newerth was in beta from April 24, 2009 until May 12, 2010. Throughout this time, over 3,000,000 unique accounts were registered. S2 Games used a Facebook fan page and word of mouth to attract players to the game. Many people who had bought one of S2 Games' previous games also received an invitation to the game through their registered email.
On August 22, 2009, the pre-sale of Heroes of Newerth began for members of the closed beta. Players who purchased the game at this time received additional benefits, including name reservation, gold-colored nameplate, gold shield insignia, and an in-game taunt ability. Open beta testing for Heroes of Newerth began on March 31, 2010, and ran until May 12, 2010, when the game was officially released.
S2 Games released Heroes of Newerth 2.0 on December 13, 2010. Features included in the update were casual mode, a new user interface, team matchmaking, an in-game store, and an offline map editor. Microtransactions were also introduced via the in-game store with the use of coins. Coins can be used to purchase cosmetic changes within the game, such as alternative hero skins, avatars, and customized announcer voices. The in-game currency can either be purchased with real life currency or earned via Matchmaking games.
S2 Games released Heroes of Newerth as a free-to-play game on July 29, 2011. Accounts that were purchased before this date retained access to all content and updates without additional charges. Accounts made after this had 15 free-rotating heroes to choose from; the 15 heroes rotated every week. These accounts only had access to the game mode All Pick. Through purchasing coins or earning them in play, players could purchase the ability to use additional heroes. Players had to pay for tokens to play additional game modes, so that they could temporarily have the hero pool available to provide balance in hero selection.
On July 19, 2012, nearly 1 year after announcing its free-to-play model S2 Games announced publicly that the game would be completely free to play with no restrictions to hero access, excluding Early Access to yet to be released heroes. The in-game store pricing was also reworked to allow easier access to in-game cosmetic content.
In October, 2012, S2 Games announced HoN Tour, a completely automated tournament system built into the game. The tournament is open to anyone and players compete to earn real money. The tournament ended with Trademark Esports defeating Complexity Gaming for the 32,000 USD grand prize on November 24, 2012.
Heroes of Newerth has received generally positive reviews, with a metascore of 76 out of 100 from Metacritic. Reviews have generally praised the technical aspects of the game, while criticizing the harsh learning curve and the commonly critical nature of the community. When Heroes of Newerth became free-to-play on July 29, 2011, the game had accumulated over 526,000 paid accounts with 460,000 unique players. The number of concurrent players online has also steadily increased over time, peaking at 120,000 as of September 2012. Laura Baker, the director of marketing for S2 Games, stated that both the "Mac and Linux clients have done well for us.
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