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A Vaguely Dissatisfying BlizzCon… For Me November 10, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , , , ,
18 comments

If I were to take at random a set of video game genres and stack rank them from those that interest me most to those that interest me least, it might look a little something like this:

  • MMORPG
  • Action RPG
  • RTS
  • Online CCG
  • MOBA
  • FPS

That sort of defines what I am looking for from one particular company.  I realize that is just me, but that is the perspective I have.

So when one particular company runs their big convention and their priority list is pretty much that list turned upside down, well… what are you going to do?

And such was BlizzCon.

Before it hit, I wrote up my dreams and desires about what might be said.  This was the way it played out viewed through the lens of my own expectations and perceptions.

World of Warcraft

They keynote opened up talking about WoW.  Here we were, 10 years down the road from the launch of Blizzard’s biggest game, and 20 years gone from the launch of the Warcraft franchise with the first of the RTS titles, Warcraft: Orcs vs Humans.

A decade of this

10 Years of Azeroth as MMO

There was lots of cheering and some nostalgia and then they packed that all away in a box and ignored Azeroth for the rest of BlizzCon.

Yes, there were two WoW panels.  One was pretty much an “in case you missed it” refresher course in things already widely discussed about the upcoming expansion and 6.0 patch.  I mean, we’d been playing with 6.0 for a couple weeks at this point, so this was more by way of “yes, you discovered what we changed, and this is why we did it” sort of thing.  And then there was the Q&A panel, which I haven’t watched yet, and I am not sure that I will.  I tend to find audience Q&A painful to watch, though I have to admit that WoW nerds have been some of the more polite, literate, and to the point in their questioners in past years, so I should probably give it a shot, or at least read the transcription.

There was also a panel about the Warcraft movie, which I enjoyed.  There was a lot of enthusiasm for how the story was being presented, 50% human and 50% orc perspective.  In fact, there was a lot of enthusiasm about most things, including the fact that key members of the production team are World of Warcraft fans.  But, being something of a plug for the movie, nobody had any business being anything but enthusiastic on that stage.  And, like so many things Blizzard does, they were talking at BlizzCon about something more than a year out.  Coming to theaters in March of 2016.

There was also the premiere of the Looking for Group documentary about WoW, which I haven’t gotten to yet, but it is up on YouTube when I have the time.

So I guess I got the answer to the big question, which was, “What will Blizzard talk about when it comes to WoW, what with the next expansion less than a week off?”  The answer was that Blizzard decided to talk about WoW as little as possible.  Which, I have to say, if you’re all about WoW relative to their other titles, was a bit of a pill.  There was nothing forward looking about WoW.  There was no vague plan to reassure player that they wouldn’t be treated to another 13 month content drought, nothing to indicate that expansions wouldn’t continue to drop at the current rate of one every couple of years, and certainly no mention whatsoever of what the next expansion might be.  Nothing was said that might distract from this week’s Warlords of Draenor launch, which mostly meant saying nothing at all. I think I WoW got more screen time outside of BlizzCon than in it, as commercials were running on TV and at the movies.  My wife and I saw Interstellar on Saturday and there was a Warlords of Draenor ad in with the trailers.

But fuck it, we get the expansion in a couple days, that ought to be enough, right?  I’ll be happy.  Hell, I was happy still pottering around and cleaning stuff up in preparation for the expansion.

I did get one reminder of the state of things during the keynote.  During the talk about the origins of Warcraft and how it got to where it is today, there was a clear statement about how World of Warcraft was the evolution of the franchise.  Bascially, WoW is Warcraft IV, and we are unlikely to ever see Azeroth done as an RTS again.

Diablo III

On the Diablo franchise front, things were about the same as World of Warcraft, only without a movie or a significant anniversary to talk about, and there had already been an expansion this year.  So basically some “Hey, isn’t Diablo III doing well!” and then off to other topics.  There was nothing new.  So I guess it is a good thing I am more of a WoW fan or I might be feeling really left out.

StarCraft

The one and only remaining RTS franchise at Blizzard finally got some news about the Legacy of the Void expansion.  The whole thing has been held up in an effort to really try to capture the Protoss point of view or some such.  And, honestly, they didn’t give a release date or anything, so we are probably looking at November/December of 2015 at the earliest.

But they said “My life for Aiur!” a lot on stage.

And they mentioned that StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void would be a stand-alone expansion, so you wouldn’t have to purchase StarCraft II and the Heart of the Swarm expansion in order to play it.  They also announced a new cooperative play mode, where two players control the same base.  A friend of mine was excited about this feature, as he and his wife like to play StarCraft II.  However, I do wonder if attempting to control the same set of units and resources will bring them closer or become one of those things, like trying to assemble Ikea furniture together, than can really test a relationship.  We shall see, whenever it ships.

Hearthstone

Blizzard’s collectible card game got plenty of attention.  It will be coming to the Android platform in early 2015 and its first expansion, Gnomes vs. Goblins is also headed our way in December, dropping 120 new cards into the mix and no doubt really kicking off a Magic: The Gathering-like arms race when it comes to cards.  Only buying in will keep you competitive.  Since I have played exactly enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed in WoW, this all sort of washed over me.

Heroes of the Storm

I have to admit that Heroes of the Storm looked good.  My first thought, as they were showing demos, was that you could make a really good Warcraft IV on that engine, forgetting already what I mentioned above on that topic.  Since we’re getting down to the lowest rungs of my hierarchy, it is pretty safe to say that MOBAs are not my thing, for the same reason that battlegrounds aren’t my thing in WoW.  I do not particularly enjoy fighting the same battle over and over again.  I had a League of Legends account, but I found the game tedious after a couple of matches and my user name has long since been recycled and returned to the pool, though I am sure they are still counting me on the roll of total registered users.

Heroes of the Storm, in addition to looking good, has the advantage of pulling heroes I know from Blizzard lore.  But is that enough to make me play it?  Anyway, there is a semi-solid date for closed beta (December) and some hand waving about dates beyond that.  Stay tuned I guess.

Overwatch

This was the new hotness for Blizzard, their first new IP since… StarCraft?  It is a first person shooter.  Everybody stared in amazement for a moment at Overwatch

Look, a new thing!

Look, a new thing!

…and then collectively said, “Team Fortress 2.”

Well, everybody but me.  I was stuck thinking, “Wait, wasn’t “Overwatch” from Half-Life 2?

They run Earth, right?

They run Earth, right?

Still, reductio ad valvium or some such.

And, yes, I think the art style and the fact that Blizzard was piling into the FPS arena in a big way made most people jump straight to the idea that Blizzard is ripping off Valve to flesh out its game lineup.  It was certainly an easy jump to make on the surface.

However, I think Blizzard is going for something a bit different here, at least as far as I could read.  Granted, I am long beyond my FPS days and if you check my Steam profile you will see that I have downloaded Team Fortress 2 but have played less than an hour of it.  Shooters and the quick reactions required to be anything more than a target are in my past.  But TF2 feels like a classic FPS game with its modes and classes.  The whole thing is streamlined, but we’ve seen the types before.

With Overwatch, Blizzard seems to be going less for the classic FPS and more for something like a First Person Shooter MOBA.  FPSMOBA?  With what I heard… six players per team, specific scenarios, more potential heroes to play than slots on a team… it sounds more like a mix-and-match special teams game.  And, as such, I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up financing itself in the MOBA style by being free to play but then selling the latest overpowered heroes, so that anybody wishing to stay competitive feels they have to buy in.

Or maybe I mis-read the whole thing.  I have to admit that between the big new game being a shooter and everybody and their brother saying, “TF2 clone!” my eyes began to glaze over and I went back to actually playing video games rather than watching people talk about them.

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

That is a saying from the old days of NASCAR, back when they drove cars that at least started their lives on the same factory floor as the ones sold at the dealer showroom.  Back then, a marquee that won races could look forward to a boost in sales and the various car companies would produce special models just to help them dominate on the track. (See: Galaxie 500, Torino Talladega, or Superbird)

I bring this up because I was a bit taken aback at how much of the BlizzCon coverage was devoted esports.  Three of the BlizzCon video streams were pretty much devoted to nothing else,  and the other two spent some time there as well, to the point that panels felt few and far between relative to watching other people play video games.  That is not my thing at all.  Like real world sports, I can watch for a while, but I tend to want to go and do something else… like actually play video games.  But there are plenty of people who seem to enjoy it and who are selling… or in many cases overselling… how popular it is.

So I started to ask myself if games like League of Legends are popular and thus become esports, or if games become popular because they get pushed as esports.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I think at this point we can divine what Blizzard thinks.  Just about every game they have now has some esports aspect, from the WoW arena to Heroes of the Storm, with Overwatch looking to be focused on the esports thing as well.  Diablo III, with only a seasonal ladder, seems to be the odd man out, so I suppose an early prediction for next BlizzCon is a change to that.  Blizzard seems to be convinced that being an esport, or at least a popular esport, drives sales.  Sell on Monday.

Which I suppose is fine, so long as they don’t leave their WoW players high and dry for another long stretch.  We shall see.

Anyway, BlizzCon has passed, leaving not much of a ripple for me.  I will have to console myself with a brand new expansion come Thursday, and all the last minute tasks I am suddenly feeling compelled to finish before then.  I played little else aside from WoW all weekend, a situation unlikely to change during the near future.

What Will BlizzCon 2014 Bring? November 5, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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6 comments

BlizzCon is just a couple days away at this point and my mind is starting to wander onto what might be on display for the big event.

BlizzCon2014

Blizzard is at a pretty high point right now.  The Activision-Blizzard report for the 3rd quarter of 2014 is just out and there were record profits, the boost in WoW subscribers, and portents of future success.  The good times just keep going.  Laissez le bon temps rouler!

Blizzard Q3 2014 Slide

Blizzard Q3 2014 Slide

Meanwhile, third party analysts at SuperData are claiming that Hearthstone, Blizzard’s “dumbed down” collectible card game, has already brought in more revenue this year than MMO competitors such as Lord of the Rings Online or EVE Online made in all of 2013. (For specific definitions of MMO.)  It launched when?  April?

SuperData 2014 YTD Numbers

SuperData 2014 YTD Numbers

But while that is all great for the folks down in Anaheim, it also steals at least a bit of potential thunder for BlizzCon.  The subscription number for Q3 has been out for a while now , we know there is an expansion coming, and Titan has been out of the picture for a while now.  What will the BlizzCon keynote be about?  You can’t just have Mike Morhaime up on stage rolling around in a giant pile of money.  As I have said before, BlizzCon doesn’t have to have any big announcements.  It can just be a big party for the attendees.  But if you’re selling virtual tickets to the live stream for $40, you do have to have something for the folks at home besides an in-game pet and some empty talk about how great things are going.

So I am going to, as I tend to do, take a stab at what they might talk about.  Not because I feel I have any special or deep insight into Blizzard, but because it is a chance to collect my thoughts about what Blizzard looks like from the outside.  Plus a few wild ass guesses to laugh about later are always fun.  Naturally there are a few potential BlizzCon topics to cover.

World of Warcraft

This BlizzCon is happening on what might be literally the worst of all possible dates for WoW.  Big subscription and financial news is out of the bag.  The new expansion, Warlords of Draenor, will go live in less than a week after BlizzCon ends.  The World of Warcraft 10 year anniversary is a just a couple weeks down the road.

A decade of this

A decade of this

What do you talk about on the Azeroth front that we aren’t already being inundated with?  This is the big money maker, the foundation that funds every new thing that the company does.  They dare not ignore it or give it short shrift.

The one thing they cannot talk about is the next expansion.  As was pointed out on the Cat Context podcast a while back, it would be pretty dumb to try to direct excitement towards the next big thing when you’re still banking on more people buying the big thing you’re about to release.  Scott Adams has re-used the joke about the company killing current revenue by telling customers that they have something even better in development.  If you have a strong message, do not derail it by confusing the issue.

So my guess is that we will be treated to a lot of nostalgia.  Blizzard, with WoW subscriptions well past their peak, is starting to cultivate nostalgia.  Not to the degree that SOE does.  Blizzard could steal some more ideas from SOE on that front.  But they are starting to acknowledge that the installed base, people who have played WoW, are the easiest people to get to subscribe.  There will likely also be something special for people who are subscribed and who log in during the 10 year anniversary, something they have not yet announced.  The pet is fine, but I suspect there will be more, something to drive people to opt-in just to get it.

As for looking forward, which they will have to do at some point, I suspect that we will get a vague framework around WoW content going forward in an attempt to make us feel that the company won’t again leave players hanging for more than a year without any new content.  Group content for Warlords of Draenor looks a bit light at launch, which is no doubt because they have held some back to dole out at later dates when the user base has again clumped up at the level cap.  But it will be pretty loose in terms of commitment, Blizz no doubt still smarting from the comments at last BlizzCon where Tom Chilton said they were further along with WoD than they had been with Mists of Panderia when it was announced, leading a great many players hopeful of a launch before the summer.  Some people were certainly saying, “No way!” when I broached the idea of a November release back in January, the expectations having been inadvertently set.

Another thing they will not talk about is any change to the subscription model.  The game is still making money by the truckload, there is no incentive at all to messing with that.  The game may no longer be at its peak when it comes to subscribers, but it is still the game that distorts perspective when it comes to counting paid subscribers.

Diablo

The Diablo franchise, for all the problems it has had since the launch of Diablo III, is still a solid money maker.  It is doing well on consoles.  It would be the star of many studio lineups, but in the house of Blizzard it has to live in the shadow of WoW.

I expect that Blizzard will have realized not only the error of its ways when it came to the auction house, but also how they handled Diablo II.  Blizzard let Diablo II whither on the vine after one expansion.  They could have easily rolled a couple more expansion, a mod development kit, special play styles and any number of other things if they had focused on the game.  So I think we will hear about medium and long term plans for Diablo III.

In the medium term, by mid-2015, there will be some content updates to keep the hardcore players active and sweet on the game, while for the long term there will be another expansion announced.

Hearthstone

Hearthstone should be easy.  It is the new kid.  There is much still to be exploited.  I imagine there will be a new expansion announced and plans for new play modes and details around new platforms to be supported and just a general celebration of how well it is doing.  Hearthstone is still too young to be looking for something big.

StarCraft

If there isn’t a StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void ship date announced, I say StarCraft II players should just riot.  Just burn the place down.

Seriously though, if Blizzard can’t get off the dime for a StarCraft II expansion, I don’t know what to say.

On the flip side, I guess I shouldn’t expect it to take less time than the last expansion, Heart of the Swarm, which hit the shelves nearly three years after StarCraft II.  And, frankly, I do not know how well StarCraft II is doing in the grand scheme of things.  The original was the be all, end all of esports back in its day, the national obsession of Korea.  StarCraft II has to live in a world where League of Legends and DOTA 2 are things, where the old school RTS model feels a bit tired, under the shadow of its illustrious predecessor, and in a company that is largely financed by an MMORPG which is trying to jump on the MOBA train as well.

In that contexts, I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t hear anything at all about StarCraft II.

Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm is, to my mind, the other easy/predictable one.  It will, I suspect, echo how they played Hearthstone last year at BlizzCon.  Lots of talk.  A vague timeline to launch.  A harder date for a wider beta.  Maybe something special to entice WoW players to give it a try.

That last one will probably wait for launch.  Again, from the Hearthstone launch playbook, give WoW players something shiny for trying the game and making it through some basic level of play.  I’d do that for another mount.  It was the only reason I downloaded and played Hearthstone.  And while the game did not stick with me, I am sure it was worth putting out a mount for those that did convert and spend money.

And, in the grand Blizzard scheme of things, they will announce this as if they were alone in the MOBA market.

Warcraft

This is where I go out on a limb.  A limb attached to a tree of crazy.

We are at the 10 year anniversary of World of Warcraft, but we are also at the 20 year anniversary for the Warcraft franchise.  What were you doing in 1994 when Warcraft: Orcs and Humans came out?  I wasn’t big on the game, but I had a lot of friends that were, and by the time Warcraft II came out I had to buy a copy because that was what we were playing at the office on Friday nights.  It was somewhat eclipsed by StarCraft as an RTS, but Warcraft is at the root of Blizzard’s success.  And while WoW has carried the franchise torch for a decade now, there is still some calling for the past iterations, before it was an MMO.  It has been a long time since Warcraft III.

Arthas and Jaina and dead murlocs

Arthas and Jaina before WoW

So my radical prediction is an announcement that Warcraft IV is under development as a story driven RTS RPG that will attempt to evolve (steal) in a new direction.  This will, of course, be in a symbiotic relationship with World of Warcraft, with lore details from one feeding into the other.

Wildcards?

Will there be something new from Blizzard?  Everything above, even my nutty Warcraft IV prediction, is playing to past strengths, working with the three franchises that essentially make up the three pillars of Blizzard.  Could they have something new in the wings?  With the demise of Titan, I suspect not.  But that is also the complete outsiders view.

What do you think Blizzard will announce at BlizzCon?

And what do you want them to announce, even if it is unlikely?

 

Looking to the Steam Summer Sale for the Next Game June 25, 2014

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Other PC Games, polls, Strategy Group.
Tags: , , , , , , ,
11 comments

Our game of Civilization V goes on.  I just posted the Week 8 update yesterday.  Things are going well enough and we remain interested, amazed, and enthusiastic to complete the epic journey to victory that this has become.  I am going to guess that we have a good four more weeks of play left in the game (not counting July 4th, which will probably be an off week for all of us) before somebody gets a corner on a peaceful victory condition and either wins or unleashes a nuclear holocaust that eventually ushers in a domination victory over a radioactive landscape.

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Remember Chuck Hestonia!

But, as Potshot noted the other night, as cool as this experiment with a multi-month game of Civ V has been, when we get to the eventual end point of the game, our immediate reaction is likely not going to be, “Let’s do this again!”  A certain amount of pig-headed stubbornness is carrying us along at this point, making us determined to see this through.  But when we are done, we will likely be ready for something new.

We have started the discussion about the next thing at what seems quite the opportune time, as we are in the midst of the Steam Summer Sale.  While some are down on the whole thing this year… and I admit that once you have been through one or two, the excitement of things being on sale does wear a bit thin… there is certainly no reason not to take advantage of period of favorable pricing.  So a list of possible candidates has started to coalesce, which I am going to trot out here.  Comments on the games so listed are welcome, especially any insight on how the game might play in a four person multiplayer situation.  And, of course, you can offer up alternatives as well.

But, before you comment to promote your favorite game of the moment, I want to bring up some parameters that will likely apply to the choice.

First, this is not the MMO group.  MMORPGs are probably not going to fly here, so piping in with WildStar isn’t going to make for a useful comment. (Given that I haven’t even used the 7 day key that Liore gave me a couple weeks back, “WildStar” probably isn’t a useful comment on any post here at the moment.)

The game should also be substantially playable in a single evening.  Clearly the Civ V experiment shows that we can play a game over several weeks, I am just not sure we want to jump back into that right away.

And I am going to come out generally against turn based games, as some of us become quite absorbed in the decision making process with others are not very patient.  Turn based isn’t a deal breaker in the right situation, but any scenario where three of us end up waiting on the fourth to make his move will either need to be a game that is generally fast in pace or a game that includes a turn clock.  So while Eador: Masters of the Broken World sounds interesting when SynCaine writes about it, I am not sure we can handle its depth and keep a game running.

With that in mind, here is what has been proposed so far. (Mostly by me.)

Total War: Rome II

SGRome

Loghound put out Total War: Rome II as an option.  I know people who like the game.  Gaff has played through it.  I have played a couple of the past games in the series.  If this is like its predecessors, the tactical game is very much in the detailed RTS vein, so no turns or anything.  I am just not sure how multiplayer works or if it is suitable for a group of four.  Also, there are some minor concerns about how much processing power the game might take.  But after Civ V, we ought to be okay if we stick to machines from this decade.

Possible alternatives: Any of the Total War series, I think I bought them all in a past Steam sale

Company of Heroes 2

SGCompanyOfHeroes2

I tossed Company of Heroes 2 on the list as a more modern alternative to Total War: Rome II.  I actually own this via a past Steam sale and have played through the tutorial, but not much else.  As with Rome II, I am not sure how suitable it is to four player for a multiplayer match.  Also struck me as a bit “arcade-ish” in the tutorial, though that might just be the tutorial, and if it isn’t, it still might not necessarily be a bad thing.  And Gaff likes it.

Possible alternatives: The original Company of Heroes, the second Combat Mission series.

Driver: San Francisco

SGDriver

Driver: San Francisco was my suggestion in order to shake things up and try something that did not involve us throwing armies at each other.  Instead, we could throw moving vehicles at each other.  The game got good reviews, is pretty reasonably priced for the summer sale, the multiplayer options sound interesting, and it involves driving around San Francisco, an area we all know well enough to at least know when we’re lost or not.  Against all of that, I do not know anybody who has actually played it.

Possible alternatives: Need for Speed: World, a billion other driving games

Boarderlands 2

SGBorderlands2

Borderlands 2 is well reviewed, very popular, and has a four player co-op mode that I understand works very well.  Another game I already own thanks to a sale at Amazon for a Steam key.  And another game I haven’t played very much of as I stink.  But are we ready for a shooter?  And, more importantly, are we ready for a shooter where we don’t get to shoot each other?

Possible alternatives: Call of Duty series, or any other co-op shooter, some of which even include zombies.

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator

SGArtemis

No, not the card game… though that might be an idea… Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator is basically the game vehicle for playing out your Star Trek bridge fantasies.  This is a long shot, but I bring it up because a friend (and occasional reader BlueLineBasher) gave me a copy and I haven’t done anything with it.  This might be good for a single Friday lark, but we would have to pick somebody to be captain who would take it at least semi-seriously.  Alcohol might be required.

Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?

Ticket to Ride

SGTicketToRide

I didn’t even know Ticket to Ride was available on the PC until I saw it on the Steam Summer Sale list.  This is one of those awesome board game conversions that keeps all the great bits of the original game while removing the bad bits… like placing all those little train counters and then picking them up again when the cat attacks the game board.  It is one of my favorite games on the iPad.  But the game is easy enough that my past experience doesn’t give me any real advantage.  While it it turn based, it does tend to be fast paced, and against real people it can be a rage-inducing cut-throat experience.  So it has that going for it.  But are we up for board games?

Possible alternatives: Other digital version of board games such as Settlers of Catan or some Carcassonne variant.

StarCraft II

SGStarCraft2

As an alternative, we could just forget Steam and go for the update to the original perfectly balanced rock, paper, scissors RTS, StarCraft II.  While it did not make as big a splash as the original, that was in part because Blizzard tried very hard not to mess it up, so it ended up being mostly StarCraft brought forward to the current decade… which is a good thing.  It isn’t on sale, but Blizzard is in its own summer doldrums right now, so it is possible they might cut us a break before our Civ V game wraps up.

Possible alternatives: The original StarCraft, something from the Command & Conquer series

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

Potshot actually brought up Total Annihilation, my all-time favorite RTS, and I am using that as an excuse to list it.  The physic in it is great, the variety of units almost boggles the mind, it still looks damn good for a game from 1997, it is available for cheap (and DRM free) over at GoG.com, and because of its age it now runs great on just about anything… which probably includes Mattman’s antique coal fired Ye Olde ThinkePayde portable difference engine.  And, of course, it has simple victory conditions (kill the commander) and nuclear weapons.  The Achilles’ heel is that I love the game and my knowledge of it will give me an unfair advantage.

Possible alternatives: Speak not to me about Supreme Commander, it is but a pale shadow of Total Annihilation… but maybe Planetary Annihilation when it ships.

Summing Up

So those are the choices that come to my mind.  I would certainly be interested in hearing about multiplayer experiences with any of these games, especially involving four players.

And, because I haven’t had a poll in a while, I will put one up so you can indicate your favorite pick without having to much around with the whole comment thing.

 

 

BlizzCon Blues October 21, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , ,
8 comments

The crowds are gathered in Anaheim.  The presentations are set.  Jay Mohr is probably reviewing his jokes.  The Foo Fighters are wandering around somewhere I am sure.

BlizzCon is coming.  It will be kicking off shortly.


But unlike past years, there is not much I am looking to get out of BlizzCon.  I have subscribed to it on DirecTV previously and watched it nearly end-to-end.  But not this year.

Part of that is because I am not really playing any Blizzard games.

Cataclysm took too much of the fun out of World of Warcraft for me.

The StarCraft II beta convinced me I had really lost my RTS skills.  I am more of a tower defense guy now.

Diablo III has been pushed out to next year.  I guess it would be nice to know the final release date, but since that will be somewhere past the SWTOR event horizon, it isn’t really a big deal to me at the moment.

There are bits of BlizzCon I wouldn’t mind seeing.

There are usually some good interviews and sessions.  I find watching the StarCraft II tournaments to be surprisingly interesting.  48 million Koreans can’t be wrong.  The dance and costume contests are always amusing, though this many years in a row the freshness has certainly worn off.

And the musical act… well, the Foo Fighters spark no interest from me.  But neither did Ozzy Osborne.  Tenacious D was okay last year, but that was more novelty I think.

But none of that really makes it worth paying to watch the event.

So I will watch other people reporting from BlizzCon this year.

And what dare I hope for from BlizzCon 2011?

Maybe they will announce the next WoW expansion.  Though to excite me, they better be able to explain how it will make up for Cataclysm. (And it better not be another 18 months away.)

Then there is the new MMO, the secret project called Titan, where all the real talent at Blizzard is alleged to be focused. (Judging from all the live team smack down comments people make.)  I would like to hear about that, though I doubt they will be able to tell me anything at all that will get me eager to play at this stage.  We know how the Blizzard release timeline goes.  If they are just giving us a glimpse over the next two days, they are at least two years away from launch.

And what else is there?

What news do you want to hear out of BlizzCon, if any?

What would get you amped up about Blizzard?

April Fools at Blizzard – 2011 April 1, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
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7 comments

There were April Fools pranks all over the internet this year like every year.  Many were quite amusing, like EVE Online’s announcement of player mounts being included as part of the Incarana expansion.

But nobody goes over the top the way Blizzard does.  Last year they had a number of April Fools jokes and this year they have kept up the tradition.

Last year there were items that only appeared on either the US or EU sites.  This time around it seems like it was a unified effort across the two geographic areas. (Though I did not do a thorough search, so if I missed something, speak up!)

There is Crabby the Dungeon Helper, a send up of the old Microsoft Office Paperclip helper.

You Cybernetic Crabby Pal

And to just rub Crabby in our faces, he is also present on the Tomb of Immortal Darkness page, a preview of the most challenging WoW instance ever.

Crabby will not be deterred

He also hangs out on the WoW community page as well, and keeps talking while you are trying to read the faux Patch 4.1.11 Release Notes, which includes items like the Random Guild Finder and and appearance tab… for non-combat pets.

Then there was the Horadrapp, a Horadric Cube iPhone app that can be used to transmute your current iPhone apps into new and more powerful apps.

Horadric Cube App

On the StarCraft II front, there was the StarCraft Motion Overdrive video, showing StarCraft II being played via the XBox 360 Kinnect as well as the StarCraft II Patch 1.4.11 Patch Notes.

And while all of this is very amusing, it does lead one to wonder what might have been accomplished if the time that went into these things was spent focusing on the actual games involved.

World of Tanks Sets a Record, I Look for the Definition of “Server” February 24, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, Hardware, World of Tanks.
Tags: , ,
8 comments

I received this press release from Wargaming.net, the makers of World of Tanks.

I get a press release of some sort from them about once a week and they vary in quality.  But today’s had me… asking questions.

Here is what they said:

World of Tanks Sets World Record

London (24th February, 2011) - Wargaming.net is glad to announce that its free-to-play action-MMO game World of Tanks has set up a Guinness World Record™ in the category of Most Players Online Simultaneously on One MMO Server.

The record was registered on January 23rd, 2011 when the number of players on the game’s Russian server totaled 91,311.

“We are excited to see so many people playing World of Tanks and the new record is an important achievement for us,” said Victor Kislyi, CEO of Wargaming.net. “However, with the population of the game growing steadily another week or two would let us report a more impressive record as the current PCCU number surpasses 120,000 players”.

Wargaming.net wants to thank all World of Tanks fans that made this record possible.

Join the beta at: http://game.worldoftanks.com/registration/ (NA server)
Join the beta at:
http://game.worldoftanks.eu/registration/ (EU server)

For more information on World of Tanks, visit http://www.worldoftanks.com/.

This confuses me a bit, since I do not understand what they mean by “One MMO Server.”

Not to bash Wargaming.net or anything, but there isn’t a lot of shared space in the game.  At the most you are involved with 31 other players you can see and otherwise you are in your own private garage or in the queue to get into a battle.  So it isn’t exactly like 91,311 people shared an experience together.

Plus, is under 100,000 really the high point for what we define as a server, shard, or realm?

Surely some game like Guild Wars has already been there, done that.

Or a game that plays like World of Tanks… like, say, StarCraft II?  If you can call WoT an MMO at the moment then the door seems open for StarCraft II, doesn’t it?

So unless they can prove that all 91,311 people were logged into the same single server in their data center rack, I’m not sure this record is very well defined.

What do you think?  Record? No Record? Poor definitions?

Blizzard Customer Service Just Giving Away Authenticators January 19, 2011

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Lord of the Rings Online, Sony Online Entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

In my further adventures with Twitter and trying to figure out exactly what it is good for, I decided to follow as many MMO company Twitter accounts as I could.

I wanted to see what companies were doing with Twitter.

A lot of the game companies are very quiet most of the time, which I appreciate.  They save their tweets for something special.

SOE, is more verbose and occasionally talks about game status, but has been mostly promoting DC Universe Online of late.  Heck, even John Smedley is suddenly quite active on the DCUO front.

TERA Online talks a lot about… well… TERA Online.  Too much, I think.

LOTRO announces flash lotteries and community related items.

But BlizzardCS seems to be unique in that they give actual customer service status, like the in-game petition queue duration. (Which went from about a 3 day wait to about a a 12 hour wait in the course of a day at one point.  Somebody turned on the steam there.)

But they also give away Blizzard Authenticators by the hundreds.

No, really.  I’ve seen a couple of tweets like this already.

I was curious enough about this that I responded and won a free authenticator on the first try.  And they sent it to me, for free.  No shipping or anything.  I didn’t actually need an authenticator, but I know enough people who play WoW that I’ll find somebody to pass it on to.

But I thought it was interesting that the organization within Blizzard that probably benefits most from people having authenticators actually has budget to send them out to people who know where to find them for free.  It is one of those things that seems logical, but which I hardly ever see.

Enlightened self-interest or some such.

[Addendum: You can read a more clearly worded and detail description of the Blizzard Twitter Authenticator Give Away contest here.]

What Am I Looking For At BlizzCon? October 22, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: ,
3 comments

BlizzCon starts in just a few hours.

The BlizzCon Musical Act

As we did last year, we have ordered the DirecTV Pay-Per-View at our house.

After viewing last year’s event, my daughter wanted us to go to BlizzCon this year.  Unfortunately, I was unemployed about the time the tickets went on sale, so thought we probably had better uses for our money.  Not that I could have gotten tickets.  How quickly did they sell out this year?

Anyway, after a flurry of deletions by my lovely wife, there is space on the (apparently non-upgradeable R15 model) DirecTV DVR for 20 hours of BlizzCon.

But what do I want to see this year?

Sure, watching panels is good.  Hearing from the people who make the games, and who are obviously very passionate about the games they make, is always good for me.

And the light bits are always fun, like the costume and dance contests.  Jay Mohr is supposed to be back again as MC of the contests.  He is a hoot to watch.

Then there is the live Tenacious D concert.  Even my wife might sit down and watch that.

But what else do I expect?  What else would I want?

World of Warcraft

Cataclysm is a little over a month away, so what can they really talk about that we don’t already know?  I mean, if you’re hard core enough to go to BlizzCon, you’re probably in the beta (unless you’re Wolfshead) or at least you’ve immersed yourself in what is coming.   The 4.0.1 patch has already dropped, so we have the new talent trees.  So what else is there.

I Expect:

  • Cataclysm Cheerleading
  • A lot of air time for the Cataclysm trailer
  • More details with few surprises
  • Maybe some new shiny announced for the Blizzard Store
  • Some excuse about why the World of Warcraft Magazine Fall issue isn’t in my hands yet
  • Goblin and Worgen dancers in the dance contest

I Want:

  • Something huge pulled out of the hat, a surprise they’ve kept under raps about Cataclysm
  • A great big hint about the next expansion
  • More bank slots (I always want more bank slots)

StarCraft II

This just released a couple of months back.  I still don’t own it, so my interest is low.  We were moaning at the office about how we could actually play the original StarCraft on machines we had at the office.  With StarCraft II, that just isn’t reality.  No LAN play an heavy system requirements… at least relative to the machines on which we work… which are from about 2004.

I Expect:

  • StarCraft II Cheerleading
  • Talks about upcoming patches
  • Ladder talk
  • Downloadable content for the Blizzard Store

I Want:

  • A date for the next episode
  • Details about the next episode (Zerg, please)
  • A price cut, LAN play, and a pony while I’m wishing

Diablo III

Here is the game about which we know the least, which gives Blizzard the opportunity to tell us something we don’t know.  Don’t blow it Blizz.

I Expect:

  • More game play videos
  • A whole lot of “here’s what we’re doing” panel time
  • Talk about RealID integration, and Facebook, and all that crap
  • The fifth and final class announced and demonstrated – If we get only this, it will be enough

I Want

  • A date, dammit.  I know it will be off by at least 90 days, but give me something
  • Some way to play without logging into Battle.net
  • Talk about how the Diablo III platform will be open to mods, with tools and real support, which they should have spent time doing for Diablo II over the last decade

Other Games

Of course, there is some other huge project going on at Blizzard.  But there has already been a denial from Blizzard that they will have any sort of announcement about this project.  Still, they might just be playing coy, and there isn’t a lot else to get us worked up about this time around that I can see.

I Expect:

  • Nothing

I Want:

  • A hint
  • Several hints
  • Maybe some anagrams
  • A teaser video

We shall see.

Of course, I’ll hear about any big news long before I see it on my recorded copy of BlizzCon.  I’ll be at work, and not in front of the TV, so anything really newsworthy will probably be a Yahoo headline before I see it.

But even when you’ve read the reports, which are always filtered through somebody elses’ perspective, it is nice to see the announcement on your own.

What will we see at BlizzCon?

Are You Buying StarCraft II? July 22, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, entertainment, Misc MMOs.
Tags: , ,
31 comments

StarCraft II comes out next Tuesday, and it is almost assured to be a best seller from day one.

I mean, it is a Blizzard product, right?

Or is it really the first Activision-Blizzard product?  Hrmm…

Anyway, it is coming out in a few days and I am trying to decide if I should buy it.

Part of me, the part that really enjoyed StarCraft when it came out in 1999, the part of me that wants to shout, “Jacked up and good to go!,” that part wants to go out and buy it on day one.

But then there is the part of me that is annoyed by the absence of direct LAN play features in the game and the fact that you will have to log into Battle.net even for solo play.  And then there is the whole Facebook integration and the Real ID question, which has been shelved for the moment, but which I am sure will return.

And finally, there is the part of me that played in the beta.  Whee, I got in the beta!  Okay, I got into it roughly 6 weeks before it ended, but I was there.  That experience left me with a few impressions:

  • The game looks really nice
  • The game play and controls are as crisp and as sure as expected
  • They took almost no risks with the game, so if you’ve played StarCraft, you know what you are getting
  • I suck at it

The last came from me getting smoked regularly in matches.  I’ve lost my build order and unit control skills over the years.  And since single player wasn’t available to me in the beta, I have no idea if that is at all worth the price of admission.

So I am on the fence about buying the game.  Nostalgia and the fact that Blizzard does make good games is pressing me forward.  But the Battle.net requirement and the fact that it is the same game most of us have played already makes me want to pass, at least until I hear how the single player campaign play.

How about you?