BlizzCon 2014: Day 1 Recap, Cinematics & Gameplay


The first day of BlizzCon 2014 is coming to an end. While the Starcraft 2 stage pulls an all-nighter with live demonstrations of Archon mode from Legacy of the Void featuring such big names as MC and Polt, the rest of the Anaheim Convention Center has cleared out and gone home. Of course Overwatch was the biggest deal. What were some of the other interesting announcements?

Hearthstone will be getting a new expansion in December called Goblins vs. Gnomes. There will be 120 new cards, and the game is coming to Android.

Warcraft the movie will be released in March 2016, and it will be based on the original Warcraft: Orcs & Humans RTS.

Legacy of the Void matches will start with 12 workers, and players will not need to own either Wings of Liberty or Heart of the Swarm to play it. Lurkers are coming back, along with a whole mess of new units, and resource availability has been cut back to force faster matches. I’m not sure the last bit is good news for those of us who would rather watch the pros than play ourselves, but time will tell.

Everything was pretty quiet on the Diablo 3 front. I missed its hour slot, but considering it was on a side stage and got zero mention on the main stage, there couldn’t have been anything substantial. Heroes of the Storm got a lot of demonstration love, and Blizzard explained the rational behind a lot of the class and loot changes in Warlords of Draenor. Legacy of the Void demonstrations are still going on as I write this, and it might be the most entertaining segment we’ll see at BlizzCon. All the pros that lost in the round of 16 are going up against each other in Archon mode–shared-control team matches–messing around and showing off the new units. The commentary and in-game banter has been pretty hilariousl I’ll post up the cast of MC and HyuN’s TvZ stomp tomorrow if I can find it.

So anyway, I’ll close out the night by sharing the videos from day one that I think matter most: new cinematic trailers and gameplay videos for Overwatch and Legacy of the Void:

Overwatch Cinematic Trailer:

Legacy of the Void Cinematic Trailer:

Overwatch Gameplay Preview:

Legacy of the Void Unit Overview — Protoss:

Legacy of the Void Unit Overview — Terran:

Legacy of the Void Unit Overview — Zerg:

BlizzCon 2014: “Overwatch Unveiled”


The hidden two hour bracket following BlizzCon’s opening ceremony was of course dedicated to Overwatch. The big spin they put on it was to emphasize how the game will not depend on “putting crosshairs over targets”. They talked of making it “less lethal”, and extending the gameplay to make it more stategic. That sounds like my Blizzard. Is it going to be something like an RTS FPS? Maybe. The biggest break from traditional FPS combat will be the abilities to heal and build things. A healer, as it sounds, follows the team around to keep them alive. Builders put up strategic zone-control defenses and weaponry. I’m being told that this is a bit of a copycat of Team Fortress 2, and that may well be the case. I am not familiar with that game, but strategy over beat-em-up has always been Blizzard’s style. The combat is not really just about killing the other team. Different maps will have different objectives, and Blizzard mentioned base defenses as well as escort missions. Battles will be 6 on 6, and Blizzard highlighted a few of the classes that will be involved. Here is how they broke it down:

‘Offense’ class has abilities like blink, arial rocket boost, teleportation, and wall climbing. These characters will have low survivability and maximum mobility, functioning as scouts and creating diversions.

‘Defense’ class guards objectives, creates choke points, and sets up sniper positions. Due to the high mobility of offense classes, choke points will be hard to come by and require thorough knowledge of the map.

‘Tank’ class does what you expect. They have 50% damage reduction and abilities such as shields that defend everyone within them from all damage for a time. They also have disruption abilities that break up defensive structures in the making.

‘Support’ class includes the healers and builders Blizzard had mentioned earlier. The regenerate players’ health, lay down gun turrets, apply damage increasing debuffs, and can teleport the team around the map.

Keep in mind, of course, that no player is going to have all of these abilities at once. The game consists of a number of “Heroes”, and each hero has its own unique set of abilities. Each hero will function as one of the four classes, but with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. You will be able to swap your hero in-game each time you die, alowing for more diverse strategy, and there can be more than one of the same hero on the field at the same time. There will supposedly be substantial backstory behind the game and characters, a lot of which will be presented to the players through media outside of the game, perhaps like the video lore series Blizzard released in preparation for Warlords of Draenor. In-game story will be limited, as there will be no campaign mode and it will be strictly multi-player. Blizzard declined to comment on what exactly out-of-game character development would be in the Q&A segment.

It all sounds quite promising, and the 10 or so minute demo match they showcased looked visually stunning, but I don’t know that the gameplay I saw lived up to the level of strategic involvement Blizzard tried to sell me. The demo opened up with the focus team setting up all kinds of ‘strategic’ positioning and gun turrets and the like, and then a buffed-up tank unit from the opposition jumped in the middle and face-rolled the entire team. Within a couple seconds the whole team was alive again and it was pretty pew pew for the next eight minutes. Granted the demo was a real demo, not a contrived, pre-planned sequence of combat, I kind of got the feeling the game would have a lot of this. So-called ‘strategic’ decisions happened in a split second, and what I think I saw was a lot of the same old “putting crosshairs over targets” technique that always turned me off to FPS games. Maybe those crosshairs sent out a magic spell or sticky grenade instead of a rocket, but it felt like the same old. We only saw one map, and ten minutes is waaay too little time to pass judgment, but I can say I haven’t seen what I want to see in this game yet.

In other news, during the SC2 WCS Global Finals Pre-Show Blizzard elaborated on “Archon” mode for Legacy of the Void in a way that made it sound like classic Starcraft shared bases–something I always enjoyed. It was also mentioned in-between segments that there are currently no plans to introduce any new classes in Hearthstone. Oh, and MMA whooped Bomber 3-1 in an upset victory in the Starcraft 2 round of 8. herO and Classic are up next.

BlizzCon 2014: Opening Ceremony, Overwatch Announced as New Franchise


BlizzCon 2014’s opening ceremony just ended about 10 minutes ago, and it ran the gauntlet of new Blizzard products. Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Legacy of the Void got some attention, but the big news was about a franchise I did not expect: a brand new one!

First we got to see some Heroes of the Storm clips, and they announced Thrall, Jaina, and The Lost Vikings as playable characters. Nothing particularly “new”, unless you were already actively involved in the beta and recognized a new map or ability. The Hearthstone announcements were much more substantive. First of all, they announced that the game would be made available for Android “tablets”. I am going to assume that means it will work on my smart phone too. Hey, it’s not technically “texting” while driving. Count me in. We also found out about the next expansion, which Blizzard oddly called the “first” Hearthstone expansion. I am not sure what that makes Curse of Naxxramas, but suffice to say Hearthstone: Golbins vs. Gnomes is going to be way bigger. There will be a whopping 120 new cards, and we won’t have to wait long to see them. The game is coming in December 2014. Whaaa?

Legacy of the Void was covered next. Lurkers are coming back. Sweet. There will also be an “Archon” mode that didn’t get much of an explanation, but it was described as a mode that will allow you to see the game “the way the pros do”, giving you a grand view of everything at once. I’m not sure what that means, or whether it’s going to be more than a well-made UMS, but I’m intrigued.

That was the first half hour. Some big announcements for Hearthstone–a Goblins vs. Gnomes expansion with 120 new cards due out in only a month, and an Android edition. Heroes of the Storm and Legacy of the Void didn’t get much of a substantial update. Then on to Chris Metzen in a horde hoodie (racist!). “17 years since Blizzard opened up a new world”, he tells us. And it’s true. Everything has been Starcraft, Warcraft, or Diablo based since the mid-90s. Not anymore.

Overwatch. The cinematic opens with some kids in a museum watching anime footage of an old cyborg task force called “Overwatch”, that had once saved the world from something or other. As they walk through the museum, explaining that Overwatch has since devolved to scattered mercenary task forces, two groups of cyborg dudes including a giant gorilla in a space suit and Ghost Rider’s alter-ego bust through the ceiling and start duking it out, apparently trying to nab old Overwatch technology on display in the museum. The video revealed nothing about the game, besides gorillas in space suits, and the audience was kind of “meh” when the trailer ended. Not to be realistic, Metzen said “It looks you guys really liked that!” and introduced Jeff Kaplan to explain the game behind the cinematic.

Jeff Kaplan described Overwatch as a “team-based multi-player shooter” and kicked off the trailer to the game proper. I don’t really like first-person shooters that aren’t GoldenEye 007, so I don’t really know what I’m looking at mechanically, but the graphics were really impressive. Vibrant and colorful, we see none of the gritty realism that FPS games like to push. The game is set in Japan with an anime vibe, and the character abilities appear to be far from conventional. I saw characters cast spells, teleport through walls, fly around in the air… It’s certainly different. We don’t have to wait long to check it out either, relatively speaking. The beta will launch some time in 2015.

And that’s that. Nothing on Diablo, as I kind of expected. Warlords of Draenor will in fact be a two year expansion, as expected. Legacy of the Void should be out in a year or so, as expected. Heroes of the Storm still exists. Hearthstone is getting a major expansion in only a month, 120 new cards, and an Android edition. That’s pretty sweet. The big deal was all Overwatch. It felt a little anti-climatic to me, but hey, Blizzard have been trying to make an FPS since Starcraft: Ghost like two billion years ago. They’ve had plenty of time to figure out exactly how they want it, and this is not a company known for half-assing their products. It’s not my style, but you can bet I’ll be playing it anyway, at least for a little while.

This is the Weirdest and Most Addictive Thing You’ll See Today: Too Many Cooks


I have a birthday this weekend so I won’t be around much for the next three days but before I left, I simply had to share this with you!  Apparently, this aired on Adult Swim at 4 in the morning and it’s all anyone is talking about today.

Too Many Cooks!  It starts out as funny.  Then it gets disturbing.  Then it’s funny.  Then it’s disturbing.  And then it’s funny again.  Ultimately, it’s funny and disturbing!

Check out Too Many Cooks and see if you can figure out what the Hell is going on.

Incidentally, Smarf was my favorite character on Too Many Cooks.  And guess what?  He’s on twitter now and, even as I write this article, he is currently tweeting some of his TMC memories.

So, what do you think is going on with the opening credits of Too Many Cooks?  I’m not sure but I do know that I’m going to have that song stuck in my head forever.

 

27 Days of Old School: #7 “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” (by Information Society)


whatsonyourmindsingle

“Tell me what’s on your mind.”

Yes, I want to know what you’re thinking. I do believe I liked this song mostly for it’s beats and catchy chorus, but not much else. Yet, it remains one of my favorite songs growing up during the 80’s.

“What’s On Your Mind” by Information Society has been part of my audio listening rotation for decades now (man, I feel old). Whether it’s the original version released in 1988 or the extended remix or just part of an extended remix by the local DJ. This song always has a place in my queue.

I would say that it’s also my first introduction to dance music that wasn’t part of the Latin freestyle movement. My appreciation of dance and house music will always find it’s roots with this song.