Blizzard has explained its decision to stub out Tychus' cigar in Heroes of the Storm.
Tychus J. Findlay is a space marine character from the StarCraft series famous for chomping on a cigar as he mows down bad guys.
This week Blizzard released a video, below, to coincide with Heroes of the Storm's launch, and in it Tychus' prisoner skin revealed the character without his cigar (skip to the 1.14 mark).
The video sparked a vociferous debate about the rights and wrongs of Blizzard's move to tinker with one of StarCraft's iconic characters.
Responding to the debate in a post on the Heroes of the Storm sub-Reddit, Blizzard senior artist Phill Gonzales said the decision was about productivity.
In certain regions, Tychus is not allowed to smoke in a game with a teen or equivalent rating (Heroes of the Storm is rated PEGI 12 in the UK). "Heroes of the Storm is a multi-region game with a teen rating," Gonzales said.
"There are a magnitude of guidelines we have to be aware of. From a development standpoint we prioritise making Heroes and Skins as utilitarian as possible, if a single model can be used in all regions, that's a huge win for development."
Blizzard was then faced with a decision: make two versions of the character, one smoking, one non-smoking, or remove the cigar.
"Making two versions means more data management, multiple duplicates of the asset (if we update an animation, it has to propagate to all versions) such as the the death ragdoll model, the facial animations, his morph into the Odin, and apply that process to every skin as well. This mountain of work affects multiple departments and has to be addressed every time we'd adjust Tychus," Gonzales explained.
By removing the cigar, Blizzard can put the development time into creating more content "instead of bloating the management of one character", he added.
"This is a decision based on productivity. The appeal of Tychus should not hinge on a cigar anyways, and we have no issue with that aspect of his character."
Gonzales described the cigar removal as an "impulse fix", and pointed to other aspects of the game that have had to be tweaked in order to comply with regional guidelines.
The Skelethur character, for example, does not show up in some regions because of guidelines about the depiction of human remains. Blizzard has to create alternate versions for anything with skulls and blood elements. And there are different versions of grave golems, too.
"It is a full time job managing those exceptions, and the less we have to manage, the more time we can spend making more game!" Gonzales concluded.
So, there it is. It doesn't sound like Tychus' cigar is coming back any time soon. Perhaps Blizzard could take one Redditor's advice and give him a toothpick to chew on instead?
Or maybe a nicotine patch on his shoulder?