BlizzCon 2015: World of Warcraft: Legion


BlizzCon is always more exciting, for me at least, on odd numbered years, and the reason is obvious enough: it is when Blizzard have historically announced the next expansion in the World of Warcraft franchise. Not so in 2015. With a great deal of “huh?” and “did something important happen a few weeks ago?”, Warcraft gamers have been slowly coming to learn of Legion, which was announced at a convention in Germany back in August.

A bit anti-climatic to say the least, the announcement might have come early to fit the company’s time table; unlike previous expansions, Legion will be released in the middle of the year instead of at the end. I thought that Blizzard would at least, well, pretend like Legion was a secret during the opening ceremonies–they did as much years ago when they “revealed” Starcraft II after announcing it previously in Korea. So I decided to remain blissfully ignorant of World of Warcraft: Legion and wait for the meat and potatoes showcase. It didn’t quite pan out as I expected. This is the trailer they presented:

I enjoyed it. Watching Sylvanas duke it out with the demon got me fairly excited. But if this was all you had to go on, you would have approximately zero idea what Legion was about save exactly what its name implies: The Burning Legion. In that sense, the opening ceremony to BlizzCon 2015 was rather disappointing. I was expecting a broad four minute cinematic showcase of the new world that Legion would open up. Instead I got a narrow four minute cinematic showcase of Varian and Sylvanas fighting demons. Meh. Cool video; not what I was hoping for though.

But thankfully there was a World and Content Overview. (And a Q&A panel later tonight.) So here is the rundown on everything Blizzard revealed about Legion:

PLOT

Where Warlords of Draenor left off, Gul’dan had opened a portal for the Burning Legion to invade alternate-reality Draenor and the horde and alliance had stopped it, but Gul’dan escaped. In Legion, he arrives in main-timeline Azeroth and heads to the Broken Isles–a remnant of ancient Suramar which holds the tomb of Sargeras–under orders from Kil’jaeden. (Sargeras is basically the highest-tier bad guy in WoW lore–a titan who turned evil and commanded the Burning Legion. Basically, Kil’jaeden’s boss.) A portal is opened, the invasion begins, and here we are. Oh, and Illidan Stormrage is back, because why not?

It’s pretty straight-forward stuff, and for as cataclysmic as a Burning Legion invasion might be, this one is apparently isolated to the new continent. (Don’t expect anything like the terrain-changing rampage that Deathwing went on at the launch of Cataclysm.)

Illidan’s role is going to pick up from Black Temple. Blizzard are retconning the invasion of the Black Temple in Burning Crusade to say that Illidan opened a portal to a demon prison world (Mardum) and sent the future-Demon Hunter class elves on through. Inside, they infuse themselves with fel energy in a way that does not bend their will towards the Legion. (In practice it’s something akin to Death Knights–a horde/alliance aligned variant of a traditionally evil class–and they’ll begin at level 98.) The Demon Hunters return to the Black Temple just in time to be defeated by the horde/alliance and imprisoned by Maiev. Their plot line resumes in the present, where they break out of the Vault of the Wardens and choose their factions.

That was all Blizzard had to say about the main plot overview. But when they got into discussing different zones, things got interesting. Apparently, Legion is going to double up as the Emerald Dream expansion. (I’m kind of torn on that because I always hoped it would be its own independent expac.) Basically, the Emerald Dream is an alternate dimension containing the blueprints of Azeroth as it was first formed. It’s where druids derive their power, and Ysera and the green dragonflight existed to protect it. For about as long as WoW has existed, it’s been plagued by a mysterious corruption, and in Legion we finally get to engage that head on.

A third plot device that’s coming into play here is the Vrykul. Apparently a large contingent of their people came to the Lost Isles prior to the events of Wrath of the Lich King, and their lore will be explored and fleshed out in the zone known as Stormheim. From the sounds of things, Blizzard intend to push the story pretty far via quests and dungeons, possibly diminishing expansion-tier lore into a single zone. I started worrying about this at first. I began to wonder if this was going to be a slap-together “various plotlines we didn’t think we could base a whole expansion on” expansion. But when they started showing the artwork for it all, I got over myself pretty quickly. They didn’t slap a random winter zone into the middle of the continent or anything cheesy like that. The art looked really tasteful and appropriate for this expansion’s overall flavor without breaking from Vrykul standards. Hey, if the vikings could settle south in Europe they can do it in Azeroth too. (I guess we don’t technically know where in Azeroth the Lost Isles will be yet.)

LEVELING EXPERIENCE

Legion will begin with a 40-player scenario sequence (I cringed at the thought of how queues for this might work months after the launch when most players have already done it) where the alliance and horde invade the Broken Isles and establish their footholds. Blizzard showed a video of it. It looked, well, pretty damn awesome.

From there, I’m a little bit suspect of the way things will go down. There are four main questing zones surrounding the max level destination of Suramar: Azsuna, Val’sharah, Highmountain, and Stormheim:

The problem is, you don’t explore them in a set order. Blizzard got it in their heads to use the scaling technology we saw a lot of in Warlords and make all mobs scale as you level, so you can choose which order you tackle the zones in. It sounds like an absolutely terrible idea to me. First of all, so much for going back and finishing the story lines in lower level zones once you’re strong enough to speed through filler “kill 15 of x” quests. They’re now guaranteed to be a tedious waste of time no matter what your level is. Yay!

And this is going to be an absolute nightmare for pvp servers. Seriously. At least before, players 10 levels above you had to go out of their way to find you and pick a fight instead of taking on players their own size. Now a level 100 and a level 109 will routinely find themselves doing the same leveling quest. It doesn’t stop at that, either. It was later mentioned that, thanks to scaling, areas can function as both leveling zones and end-game questing areas. Uh, thanks Blizzard. There’s nothing this dwarf loves more than competing to complete a quest at level 100 against three full-conquest geared horde at level 110.

END-GAME QUESTING

Like it or not, daily quests are coming back with a vengeance. I absolutely loved command table missions in Warlords of Draenor, because you were pretty free to do whatever you wanted within the mission area and gain credit towards the same objective. Legion‘s variation didn’t sound particularly bad though. Instead of picking up dailies from a central hub, there will be daily quest regions with objectives listed on your map–presumably dozens of them–and you can pick from a huge variety throughout the continent to do whatever you’re in the mood for on a given day. Blizzard described their intention as to “overwhelm you with options”. And I like that. Part of what made Warlords of Draenor the most fun thing Blizzard has created in a long time was this sense that you never had to do the same content twice or run out of activities. I get the impression that in Legion they are taking that idea and pushing it even further.

The more significant rewards of dailies won’t be “daily” in the traditional sense, either. They will be something more like “complete six of the dozens of daily quests in a given zone this week.” So you should never feel obligated to actually play every day in order to keep up with the content. As someone who likes to be geared for raiding early in an expansion but can’t be on every day, I really like that.

RAIDS AND DUNGEONS

Blizzard announced two raids for Legion. The first is The Emerald Nightmare, which I’m really looking forward to because the Emerald Dream is an obscure bit of WoW lore that’s intrigued me for years. We’re finally getting to see it out. The Emerald Nightmare will contain 7 bosses and open a few weeks after launch, similar to Highmaul.

Inside you’ll fight, among other things, Xavius, corrupted members of the green dragonflight, and–I thought this was pretty awesome–the one and only Cenarius, fully corrupted by the Nightmare’s blight.

I’m pretty stoked. This is the raid I’ve been waiting for for a long, long time (still wish it was a full expansion), and I don’t think Blizzard are going to disappoint. The brief video they showed of the place looked amazing.

The second raid is going to be Suramar Palace. This one will be central to the expansion’s main plot, with Gul’dan as the final boss. It contains 10 bosses, and its design is pretty unique from the sounds of it. Set in the highest palace of the Nightborn Elves’ capital, it’s going to be a bright and elaborate palace, not a dark grimy catacomb. (At least, as they described it. No preview was shown.)

Additionally, Blizzard is pushing to make dungeons central to Legion–or so they say–but I’m not sure that it’s going to have a real impact. I think most of us were quite relieved to discover that dungeons were one and done in Warlords of Draenor. It made them unique and enjoyable rather than mindnumbingly repetitious grinds. Blizzard are putting a lot of effort into redesigning dungeon scaling and reward systems for challenge mode, but it frankly sounded like an excessively complicated waste of time that no one is going to bother playing anyway. (Honestly, how many people do you know who do challenge modes? Out of a maxed out realid list of 100 people I can think of approximately zero.) But if that’s your gig, it sounds like there will be additional tiers of difficulty which incorporate additional mechanics.

The only thing that worried me is I got the impression dungeons might scale up to your current gear even if you don’t want them to. I’m really hoping this isn’t the case–especially with scaling coming into play in the world zones as well. It rather defeats the purpose of seeking better gear if it never makes you any stronger…

ODDS AND ENDS

There is something that might be a new major city but probably isn’t: Suramar. Elves created a barrier to protect the ancient capital of Suramar during The Sundering 10,000 years ago, and they have been living behind it ever since, unaware that the War of the Ancients was ever won. The city was described as “one of the most ambitious projects that this team has ever done”. Blizzard explained that the leader of the city turned over to the Burning Legion, and one speaker let it slip–seemingly by accident–that Dalaran will be moving to the Lost Isles from Northrend, so I doubt there will be a traditional hub here. “The Grand Palace of Suramar” is a raid, and the city features two dungeons. Yet Blizzard mention “aiding your allies in Suramar”. I’m not sure what to make of that, and wonder if the city will be divided into a “safe-zone” hub and the occupied districts. Is Suramar City a city or just a questing zone like Shattrath in Warlords of Draenor, but with a raid and dungeons stuck in the middle? Hard to say.

One thing Blizzard definitely confirmed is that we will be able to see it. Visibility distance will be increased to three times its current level. That might honestly be the most exciting announcement about the whole expac for me, and a pretty cool reason to go re-explore the world.

There will be moose, games where you roll around in a barrel, and male banshees (manshees). All of these points received special attention because 😕 why shouldn’t they?

Blizzard made no mention of whether or not there would be level 110 flying. I think no flying had a tremendously positive impact on Warlords of Draenor. It felt like the largest expansion in the game by far–a place you could get lost in like nothing since Vanilla WoW. But the decision saw its fair share of opposition, so it’s hard to say whether they’ll repeat the process in Lost Isles.

World of Warcraft: Legion is due out in mid-2016. It looks pretty good, and has manshees.

Warcraft Official Trailer (For The Film…Not The Game…I Know, Right!)


Warcraft

Warcraft was a game on the PC that I played for hours on end. It was the closest thing gamers had to a video game version of the Warhammer Fantasy property. the title had two popular sequels and gave birth to the biggest, most popular and most addictive MMORPG in history. I mean, World of Warcraft, led to couples getting divorces, players getting into real fights outside the game and even getting together in holy matrimony for reals.

So, Hollywood seeing a cash cow when it sees one had been trying to get a live-action film based on the Warcraft property for years. So many different directors had been attached to make it (from Uwe Boll right up to Sam Raimi) but in the end Duncan Jones got the job to bring Azeroth (and Draenor) to life on the big-screen.

With the film still months away, Universal and Legendary Pictures look to start the hype train going by releasing the first official trailer for Warcraft with much fanfare.

NMY vs The World Video Game Hall of Fame Class of 2015


The Strong, an educational institution in Rochester specializing in the study of games, announced the six inaugural inductees of their World Video Game Hall of Fame yesterday. So what? Well, it made its way onto a lot of major news sites, which means it is probably going to resurface again next year and, in time, become the closest we’ve got to an “official” Hall of Fame.

My gut reaction was “my what a pretentious title”, because the “World” VG HoF looks incredibly U.S.-centric. Their game history timeline pretty much completely ignores the fact that the U.S. did not control the international gaming market for the vast majority of the 20th century. I mean, this timeline is crazy. 1982, the year that the bloody Commodore 64 was released, they feature Chicago-based Midway’s Tron instead. 1986, the year that Dragon Quest set the standard for the next two decades of role-playing games, they are at such a loss to find anything novel that they dig up Reader Rabbit by Boston-based developers The Learning Company. In spite of devoting 1992 to Las Vegas-based Westwood Studios’ Dune II, LA-based Blizzard Entertainment steals 1994 with Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Does the invention of RTS gaming really deserve two years? Well, it’s not like it was competing with the release of the Sony Playstation or anything. Oh that’s alright, we’ll feature it in 1995, since that’s when it came to America. This list also devotes 1993 to the development of the ESRB rating system (which only applies in America), 1996 to Lara Croft’s tits (seriously, does anyone actually give a shit about Tomb Raider?), and 2002 to the U.S. Army, because uh, freedom!

So yeah, World Video Game Hall of Fame my ass. But that doesn’t mean they got the first six wrong:

Pong (1972)

“Ladies and gentlemen, you have been hand selected to choose the five games which will accompany Pong into the Hall of Fame.” It had to go something like that. Pong invented gaming like Al Gore invented the internet. Could you imagine a Hall of Fame without Pong? I mean, it’s Pong! Really though, wasn’t computer gaming kind of inevitable? Was it the first game? Nope. Did it stand the test of time? Not really. Did it usher in the age of arcade gaming? I guess it did, but the game itself had little to do with that. It was a novelty. Replace it with anything else, and that other game would be just as famous, regardless of its content. I don’t like that. There is a reason why Pong is the only game of the six Hall of Famers that I never played as a kid or else upon release, and that has nothing to do with my age. I think we get hung up on its simplicity, its catchy name, this idea that it all began with two paddles and a ball, and the desire to point to something and say “this started it all”. Pong deserves recognition in any gaming hall of fame eventually, but top 6? We can do better.

NMY gives this selection a 5/10

Pac-Man (1980)

What are Pac-Man‘s claims to fame? Well, it was the first video game to be a major social phenomenon, generating a huge market for spin-offs, toys, animated cartoons, and all sorts of other consumer products. It was the first video game with a really memorable theme song. It remains the best-selling arcade game of all time. It generated a chart-topping shitty pop song. It even destroyed the gaming industry. (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial has absolutely nothing on the devastating consequences of Pac-Man‘s abysmal Atari port.) And sure, it’s pretty boring, but it still lasted well into the 90s. I had a pirated DOS copy as a kid. Do you think anyone bothered to pirate Pong? Uh, no.

NMY gives this selection a 10/10

Tetris (1984)

Tetris is a game that we all agree to love because it is Russian, and like Russia, it is really evil and kind of a dick. Four Z blocks in a row? Really? I didn’t double tap that button. Go back! Ugh…. Tetris annoyed the hell out of me as a kid, but I certainly did play it. It also spawned a ton of cheap rip-offs, novel improvements, and largely unrelated block puzzle games that stole its name for publicity, and a lot of these vastly outclassed the original. If I look back on all the fun I had playing Tetris Attack for the Super Nintendo, or hosting TetriNET tournaments online in the late 90s, or the amount of time my wife wastes on Candy Crush Saga, it is hard for me to pretend that Tetris was not significant. It was the mother of all “endless puzzle” games, and it deserves credit for that, even if I hated the original Alexey Pajitnov Tetris, with its never-ending tiers of frustration.

NMY gives this selection a 9/10

Super Mario Bros (1985)

This is the real shoe-in. Nintendo was able to turn Mario into (I am assuming) the most recognizable fictional character in the world because the original Super Mario Bros was so great. A game released in 1985 is not supposed to still be this much fun 30 years later, but from novel settings and mechanics to outstanding control, this game ran the gamut of what a great side-scroller was supposed to be. This, at a time when there was very little in the way of quality competition to take inspiration from. The game’s lasting legacy is so pervasive in our culture that I would feel silly even bothering to summarize it.

NMY gives this selection a 10/10

Doom (1993)

“Why an FPS, World Video Game Hall of Fame?” Because “it also pioneered key aspects of game design and distribution that have become industry standards“, according to the official induction explanation. Design-wise, they laud it for “a game ‘engine’ that separated the game’s basic functions from other aspects such as artwork.” That might be an interesting point. I don’t know much about it, though I have to imagine that anything Doom did, Wolfenstein 3D did first. Distribution-wise, they talk about how id Software marketed downloadable expansions and encouraged multi-player, online gaming. That point fails to impress me. Doom launched in 1993, which means no games before it really had the option to market themselves in this way. “First” only counts for me if the move is innovative, not inevitable. So we are left with some sort of novel modular processing system and the fact that it was the first really successful FPS. Those are fine points. I might not like FPS games, but I can’t deny that they have had a more lasting impact than say, fighting or sports games. Placing so much weight on the play style does, however, open up the doors for a lot of why nots. Why not Diablo? Why not Dragon Quest? Why not Command & Conquer?

NMY gives this selection a 7/10

World of Warcraft (2004)

I am not entirely sure why the World Video Game Hall of Fame chose World of Warcraft, because they aren’t telling. Their write-up goes into detail on what makes MMORPGs so revolutionary, but none of it is really unique to WoW. They throw out some numbers about WoW’s player base and monthly profit, and then bam, inaugural hall of fame induction. I am probably the last person to give an accurate assessment of how World of Warcraft changed gaming, because I still actively play it, but I have to believe that its enormous popularity had a lot to do with its place in time. Coming in to the 21st century, we all knew someone who played EverQuest, and we all (all of us, right guys?) secretly wanted to abandon our real lives and nerd out in 24/7 multiplayer fantasy immersion. I never played EverQuest, however, or Final Fantasy XI for that matter, because I still had dial-up internet. World of Warcraft launched right around the time that the majority of gamers were becoming equipped to play something of its magnitude. That being said, WoW is going on 11 years now, and still going strong. I’ve never seriously considered canceling my subscription. Blizzard landed on a market ripe for the picking, but they have carefully cultivated it ever since.

NMY gives this selection an 8/10

Over all, I think the World Video Game Hall of Fame is off to a good start. Pong is the only inaugural entry I strongly disagree with, but were it missing, would people still take the organization seriously? Doom is a bit sketchy to me, because its only claim seems to be “first popular FPS”. I think GoldenEye 007 was the game to push FPS into the mainstream and really reach beyond the genre, while Blizzard clearly dominated online gaming with Diablo and Starcraft, whatever id Software happened to do “first”. Doom is a good candidate, no doubt, but I feel like it belongs in another class. It would have fit in more nicely in a 2016 school that pushed genre-standardizing games like Dragon Quest, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, and Space Invaders.

Is that what we have to look forward to in 2016? Well, based on the runners-up from 2015, maybe not. The list did include Space Invaders and The Legend of Zelda, along with worthy contenders Pokémon Red and Blue and The Oregon Trail. Beyond that, it got a bit dicey. It is hard to imagine that Angry Birds, for instance, almost made the top 6. Sonic the Hedgehog would be long forgotten if not marketed as Sega’s response to Mario, yet it was a contender. FIFA International Soccer was the only sports entry–an odd choice, given that I have never heard of it, it only came out in 1993, and Tecmo Super Bowl exists. The other options were Minecraft–a bit young yet, don’t you think?–and oddly, The Sims, which I am sure was quite fun to play and left no lasting impact on gaming whatsoever. Well, they’ve got another year to straighten things out.

BlizzCon 2014: Two Videos Worth Watching from Saturday


All of the meat and cheese of BlizzCon’s content is traditionally crammed into Friday. They open with a bang, throw all of the big news at you all at once, and then spend Saturday giving you some time to soak it in. Lots of Q&A panels are the norm, along with a growing collection of e-sports grand finals and a big rock concert to send you off in style. 2014 was no different, and there is certainly no major news to bring to the table, but it was nevertheless a day full of entertaining events, and I would like to share with you my two favorites.

The first is a documentary called “Looking for Group”. In celebration of the ten year anniversary of World of Warcraft, Blizzard created a one hour documentary about how the game came to be. The film leaves a lot to be desired from the players’ perspective. Blizzard took up a great deal of the time archiving fan experiences in the game–a married couple talks about first meeting in Stormwind, a teen reflects on growing up playing the game with his father, a handicapped woman remembers playing WoW to help mentally recover from her accident. It is probably incredible for a game developer to think that they made that much of an impact on peoples’ lives, but anyone who has played the game long enough has run into situations like this before. It’s nothing particularly novel or exciting for the fans. But the film also incorporates plenty of behind-the-scenes looks into how the company has operated over the years and the personalities leading the charge. I found the details on the early developmental years of the game especially interesting. If you have ever enjoyed World of Warcraft, it’s worth taking an hour to watch this:

The second video I want to share with you might take some persuasion. When your two favorite professional sports are golf and Starcraft, it is really hard to make friends. But such is my fate. Despite all of the columns I was pumping out Friday, I actually did manage to watch live all 30 matches of the Starcraft II World Championship Series Global Finals that took place at BlizzCon. MMA knocking off Bomber 3-1 might have been the biggest upset, but Classic’s rocky 3-2 finish over herO made MMA’s path to the final round feel easy. Life ultimately outclassed him 4-1 in a way that was certainly impressive but not exceptionally fun to watch. The real excitement came in the bottom bracket semi-finals. Life and TaeJa breezed their ways past San and INnoVation 3-0 and 3-1 respectively, and both players looked to be at the peak of their game rolling into the semi-finals. Life ultimately progressed to the finals 3-2 in what was surely the most intense series of the event. The video below was my favorite match of that series. It starts off with both players taking extremely aggressive and risky stances–in Life’s case one you would almost never see at this level. I’m not going to spoil who wins, but the 24 minute length of the video should tell you that both players move beyond the opening chaos. Neither player is willing to put on the breaks all game, forcing some really unconventional gameplay. With practically perfect micro on both fronts, we get to see what a top tier SC2 match ought to look like–two masterminds who can’t hope to surpass the other’s technical precision and have to bluff, gamble, and predict moves ahead of time to pull off a win.

I suppose that a lot of e-sports boil down to mind games as a sort of maximum skill level is reached. The glory of Starcraft II is that reaching that threshold is so difficult even many of the pros in the global finals succumb to error in basic techniques and strategy. That was not the case this weekend with TaeJa and Life, and that is what made this series my favorite at BlizzCon 2014.

And lastly, for those of you who were actually watching yesterday, what did you think of Metallica? I had a lot of fun on IRC during the closing ceremonies trash talking Lars, predicting what song would come next, and blabbering about metal in general. How did this band selection rank for you in the annals of BlizzCon closing ceremonies? Blizzard have offered a lot of variety in their selections over the years. From the somewhat genre-appropriate (Metallica), to the big ticket, high-budget rock sensation (Foo Fighters), to the bottom-barrel (Blind-182), to the in-house absurd (Lvl 80 Tauren Chieftain), we’ve seen a lot. Is it enough? Blizzard is all about nerd aggro. It is the heart and soul of their ethos. I’ve long thought a fantasy-oriented power metal band would be the best choice to reflect that. Even if most of the spectators had never heard of Blind Guardian before, you know they would bring the house down. Amon Amarth, Dethklok, Iced Earth, Iron Maiden, and Rhapsody of Fire were some of the other names that got dropped. Of course the most popular choice for a future BlizzCon was GWAR.

This will be my last post on BlizzCon 2014. Thanks for reading! Here are links to my previous entries:

BlizzCon 2014: Day 1 Recap, Cinematics & Gameplay

BlizzCon 2014: “Overwatch Unveiled”

BlizzCon 2014: Opening Ceremony, Overwatch Announced as New Franchise

BlizzCon 2014: Rumors and Speculations

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.