Another year, another BlizzCon over. I’m still in the process of watching stuff over Virtual Ticket (and I got it free this time via Facebook gaming giveaway!) but I have the gist of it by this time. Of course this year is different because it’s been quite controversial, even leading to stock drops for Activision-Blizzard (at least temporarily, not really an expert of the field.) Of course, I wanted to express my thoughts as an avid Blizzard fan. I’ll go topic by topic to talk about my perspective.
Heroes of the Storm
I think HotS has been my favorite Blizzard game since 2.0 (I also played a lot since F&F alpha to a certain point as release) and of course, I was excited to hear more.
While nothing major is coming up in the next patch, the changes announced were pretty good! The Heroes team received some backlash at the start of 2018 due to failures in the performance match-making, but they’ve since then mended the wounds mostly and they seem to be matching the community’s needs. Already some requests like the third ban was added and in future, we’ll see a re-arrangement of roles in a way that makes more sense for the game today and further tweaks to ranked play.
There are also game play improvements such as changes to armor stacking, stimpacks (now called boosts) affecting your party and forts also spawning catapults like keeps (albeit at a reduced rate).
Overall, pretty solid, and as a Heroes player, I’m looking forward to the changes!
I don’t really play Hearthstone so can’t really talk about it. The video talking about it was fun and the trailer is awesome as every goddamn Hearthstone trailer and otherwise related videos are. Croak.
Seriously, these two are a-mei-zing! Yup, I went there. Anyhow, I love how Ashe looks and sounds! Bob ulti is just a very interesting idea.
The animated short was pretty good and they teased a new hero: Echo (nope, not Athena.) Apparently she’s a big deal, so we’ll hear more about her I guess.
In terms of future… I actually just noticed that I haven’t watched Overwatch future panel yet! Well. I don’t play Overwatch much since I switched to Heroes, but I’m guessing they are doing esports stuff and more content and such. I really liked the endorsement thing they did this year, so maybe more social features too.
So, new hero looks good, content is fun. Everything in order.
World of Warcraft
WoW had it rough since BfA. Even before the release, the story was bashed hard. Later on, with the additions and short stories, it turned out things made more sense than people thought and after a honey moon period, problems about gameplay started. Azerite system was criticized brutally (most points rightfully so) and the new gameplay additions also met a lot of negativity.
The team communicated since then and it seems to have reached its peak in BlizzCon. I don’t think the flames will be quenched completely until things are implemented and systems make sense, but the promises look… promising.
One thing that was important is that they acknowledged the community shouldn’t have to wait for a major patch and it looks like .x.5 patches will be a thing. They already talked about 8.1.5 and even 8.2.5.
We’re gonna see Nazjatar and a real insight into Nagas (PLAYABLE NAGA PLEASE) and also find these semi-mechagnomes in the area known as Mechagon, which will include a mega-dungeon, similar to Karazhan remake in Legion. I missed it during Legion so I hope I won’t miss Mechagon.
I unsubbed right after BfA release because I wouldn’t have time to play then and just recently re-subbed so still discovering things. But I’m looking forward to the patches.
The most interesting part for me was when Afrasiabi talked about choices. Apparently the whole one-shoulder movement (probably started at reddit), touched the devs in all the right places and it looks like we might have a choice between Saurfang and Sylvanas later in the patch. With consequences. There would be a single canon so I guess sides reconcile eventually but it’d still be cool if we get separate quests. I always liked the non-forsaken quest in Scarlet Monastery.
So, good approach by Blizzard, promising content and I really like Ion. What a great dude.
Warcraft 3: Reforged
I’m just so excited about this. Warcraft 3 is one of my favorite RTS and games of all times. To be honest, SC2 map editor was more powerful but I could never enjoy the custom maps as much as I did Warcraft 3’s. So I can’t wait to play the campaign again and check out the maps.
Also, they are making some changes to match today’s Warcraft. So I’m guessing map assets will be more precise and one example they gave was that the entrance to Stratholme would be from south.
The team looked super-hyped too, so that’s a bonus.
Man, release already!
Zeratul as co-op commander is the main news I believe. I haven’t watched the videos yet. I watched the bit about Zeratul, looks interesting. I only bought a commander pack last year black friday, but this could be the first time I buy another. The whole finding artifacts and summoning armies that attack on their own thing is pretty cool.
I do want to watch more as they mentioned there were some news about the AI research. I asked about that in Gamescom and the developer said there were things happening, so I’m curious about that.
Diablo & Diablo: Immortal
Who knew the End of Days prophecy for Diablo 3 was meant for literally the Diablo franchise? Because from the looks of the feedback, it looks so!
So Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal, a mobile Diablo game. It actually looks pretty good. I’m not sure if I’ll play it because I hate mobile action rpg controls. I think the only one I played a bit more than usual was an old Ragnarok Online arpg.
One bit that’s a concern is that they aren’t developing on their own but with a Chinese company called NetEase. They seem to be partners with Blizzard for a long time, sort of their publisher there I guess. I haven’t seen details on the partnership for development anywhere.
Also… Wyatt Cheng shouldn’t lead panels. Especially not with the dude who was in the panel with him. Seriously, it was super cringe-y. I took terrible, terrible damage trying to watch the panel thanks to all the jokes… or attempts. I think they were joke attempts at least. Just… Guys, if you are reading this, I’m sure you are great developers but just… don’t do panels. At least not that way. I mean you could try to be deliberately bad or joke about your terrible jokes but I kinda feel like it’s a risk. So don’t.
So! Why the whole controversy? I think it was mainly two things:
- Mobile is still not accepted by the hardcore gaming community
- Blizzard failed terribly at expectation management
There isn’t much to add the point #1. For #2, Blizzard released a video 3 months ago that says “we may have some things to show you this year.” In hindsight, I see what they wanted to do. It was a new season, talk about that. Diablo franchise is over 20 years old, let the community know you appreciate them. And finally, tease upcoming things because people usually say Diablo is the unloved child. However, if you do this 3 months before Blizzcon, it doesn’t matter if you say “we may have some things”, people will expect things. They did release a statement hinting there wouldn’t be a diablo 4 announcement this year, but it came too late. And still, people expected a diablo 1/2 remake at least. Rightfully so, since Blizzard has been hiring for a diablo title in the classic games team.
So the diablo veterans are hungry for more. Their expectations are elevated and without even mentioning any other projects at all, Blizzard announces a mobile game. Mistake.
Later on they said there were other projects and now rumors fly around that a diablo 4 announcement was going to happen but delayed but the damage is done.
I think majority overreacts with doomsday scenarios of “THIS IS THE NEW BLIZZARD NAO” but the fact that Blizzard didn’t see this is a huge mistake on their part and sadly, a clue that they didn’t really understand how fans would take this.
So, Diablo franchise: Controversial, huge mistakes on Blizzard side. But they are mostly on communication side and in reality, we know that Diablo remake is coming, a big diablo game is 90% a thing and on top, a mobile game. To me, that’s good. Blizzard will suffer the consequences of their mistake but as players, we should be good.
There are a few final points I want to touch, not necessarily regarding a particular franchise.
First, Morhaime’s speech and handover to Allen Brack was sentimental! I’m glad Morhaime opened BlizzCon again, for the last time. Brack is a Blizzard veteran, level-headed and mind in the right place, so I think he’ll lead Blizzard well. My only concern here was the relations with the board but Brack looks solid and I didn’t get any feeling that Morhaime was somehow forced or Brack wouldn’t hold against them… I guess you never know, corporate politics suck. But I have no reasons to be concerned at this point.
Another was seeing the one and only Metzen in WoW panel! I don’t know how much of it was planned. It was great seeing the guy and how in an instant he fired up everyone in the room!
A panel that was a favorite for me also last year was Stay awhile and Listen. I strongly urge you to find and watch these. In this panel, people related to Blizzard tell their stories. This year was Terran Gregory (one of my favorite people in Blizzard), Darin de Paul (voice of Reinhardt and lots of others) and last but not least, Ion Hazzikostas.
Last but not least, the whole community. I think a lot of people don’t really get the spirit of Blizzard community. It’s not about the asshole who sweared at you in Overwatch. There is much more to it than that. It’s not about Blizzard missing community reactions during development: Not only it happens, but there are also always opposing sides to an idea in the community. In the end, Blizzard community is a whole. Terran Gregory, part of it. Morhaime, part of it. Me, part of it. You? If you want to be, part of it. It’s harder to get it from EU, but I’ve been in a Facebook group with dominantly US players and I can see what an amazing experience it is for them. Even without being there, I can feel it. As long as this continues, even if their games suck one day, my respect for Blizzard in this sense will always remain.
I guess this was a good conclusion. So in the end, still watching, but a nice Blizzcon despite controversy and a lot of content to look forward to!
In future article #soon, I’m gonna talk about some mobile games Blizzard can develop! [Article here]