Tag Archives: BlizzCon

Diablo II Resurrected and the Rest of BlizzConline 2021

BlizzConline has come and gone.  It was certainly more subdued than any BlizzCon though, when you don’t have a packed auditorium cheering, you cannot expect the same energy.

BlizzCon Online over yesterday

Yesterday I went through what I considered the “important bit” for me, the status of WoW Classic and the coming of The Burning Crusade.  But that was obviously not all that Blizzard had to talk about.  So here, in my order of importance, are other bits from BlizzConline.

Diablo II Resurrected

This was the other item I was keen to hear about, and I was not disappointed.  Blizzard officially announced their remaster of Diablo II.  Having just replayed the original last year… and no longer really having the option since my big new monitor simply won’t work with it… I am excited to see this.  I am pretty much a guaranteed sale here.

The return of the classic

What they showed… remastered 3D graphics as well as the option for the 2D experience… up on screen side by side with the original looked very good, both true to the original and updated to current standards.  They also have some improvements… a larger stash, a more comprehensible character and skill sheet… that looks good.  The details are up on the site for the product, including the graphical comparisons.

Plus they are going to launch it on PC, XBox, PlayStation, and Switch.  Seems like they are going all in on this.  They are even hyping up cross-play for different platforms, so you can access your character on any of the above hardware.  I am only interested in it on the PC really, where it will be $40. (Or $60 with Diablo III and all its addons thrown in.)

As with Burning Crusade Classic, the deep dive panel (video here) was less technically focused… again, no slides or charts or numbers… and more about the drive to deliver both an authentic Diablo II experience and bring the game in line with modern expectations.  The level of detail discussed was impressive.  I suspect we’ll hear again from David Brevik about how Blizzard can’t do this, that, or the other thing, as occurs whenever talk of a Diablo II remaster comes up, but Blizz seems set to prove him wrong.

And it is expected to launch in 2021, though it wouldn’t surprise me if they did a repeat of the original for an end of the year release.  That fact that the list December on the page where you can pre-order it… because of course you can pre-order it… seems a likely sign.  We shall see.

I am excited about this, though I know Blizz has dropped the ball on the remaster thing before, back with Warcraft III.  I hope they learned the right lessons from that.  But if they are going out on consoles, this will have a lot of resources behind it.

Shadowlands Updates

It isn’t so much that I dislike the Shadowlands expansion… it seems interesting and fun in its own way, and I jumped on board at launch… it is more than when I stack rank what I want to play on a given evening it tends to fall into third or fourth place… fourth now that Valheim is on the scene.  Unfortunately, that means I am so far behind on covenant stuff (they barely know me at this point) and have missed so much that I am probably out until the second summer of Shadowlands when they smooth out the curve to let the slackers catch up.

Anyway, they announced the first big content drop, the 9.1 Chains of Domination update.  Kaylriene has a write up that covers it and the presentations in more depth than I could manage, so that probably ought to be your destination if this is relevant to your interests.

Blizzard Arcade Collection

Blizzard, on a retro rampage with their 30th anniversary, has brought back their original console titles, The Lost Vikings, Rock N Roll Racing, and Blackthorne, in the Blizzard Arcade Collection.

Back in the lineup

I have never played any of these titles.  I know just enough about them to get the occasional reference to them in WoW… the Vikings, for example, are in Uldaman.  But the games have been brought up to date and will be available on XBox, PlayStation, Switch, and PC.  I might actually give this a try on my Switch Lite.

Diablo Immortal

We have been hearing about this since BlizzCon 2018 when Blizzard failed to manage expectations after putting the Diablo franchise in the position of honor in the schedule, leading everybody and their dog to expect a Diablo IV announcement.  They told us directly to not get our hopes up, but it was right there on the schedule.  And then after the keynote the schedule was updated to say Diablo Immortal.

Phone Diablo

Still, the word out there is that it is a pretty solid title, sitting in the story line between Diablo II and Diablo III.  I would probably give it a try on my iPad if it isn’t to dear in price… absolutely if it is free, though we know how that can go.  Of course, that is part of the problem;  we still don’t know many solid details about the game and the Blizzard site about it doesn’t have much to add.  I feel like I know way more about Diablo II Resurrected after two days than I do about Diablo Immortal after more than two years.

Hearthstone Classic

I’m not going to play this.  I played just enough Hearthstone to get the Hearthsteed mount in WoW, and then a bit more on my iPad, but it isn’t a game that holds me.  I am just amused that they’ve thrown so many expansions and changes into the game that they’re ready to drag out a classic version… though I guess it has been six years.  Time flies.

Diablo IV and Overwatch 2

We heard about the rogue class in Diablo IV and about the myriad PvE missions in Overwatch 2, but both titles are still more than a year out, so I just cannot get myself at all worked up.  There are too many things to interest me between now and whenever to divert my attention.  Also, the announcements were not all that earth shattering.  I’m not saying there isn’t something Blizz could say about either that would kindle a deep interest, they’re just not there yet.

BlizzConline Overall

Not bad.

I mean, it is hard to argue with some of the solid announcements they had.  There was enough WoW focused stuff to keep me engaged along with enough other stuff that it didn’t feel like the “WoWCon” BlizzCons of a decade back.

I was also happy it was free and readily available via multiple services and that the videos from the panels were uploaded and ready on YouTube almost immediately.

Still, it didn’t quite have the full BlizzCon feel.  As I said previously, it felt different not being in front of a live studio audience.  I may love the written word, but writing “the audience roared” and hearing a BlizzCon audience roar of its own accord in reaction to something announced on stage at the Anaheim Convention Center.

I didn’t mind the chatty nature of the panels.  I like to hear the devs talk and they have done some nice videos in the past like that.  I especially remember the series with some of the original devs talking about making WoW as part of the WoW Classic launch build up.  But I am not sure that eight minutes of that in a 30 minute panel that is labeled as a “deep dive” is quite on the mark.

I felt that there was a lot less hard information presented and that the details that were given us often were not accompanied by the bullet point slide pages to which we have grown accustomed from past BlizzCon panels.  It isn’t real unless it is in PowerPoint, right?

I also wouldn’t be surprised to find that the panels and presentations were all pre-recorded and just queued up to play.  With no live audience and nobody holding up today’s paper in frame ransom note style how could we tell?

In fact, in writing that, I will swap to saying that I would actually be surprised to find that most, if not all, of the panels were NOT pre-recorded and queued up to play.  I mean, why wouldn’t you go that route?  Though, if you did, you’d think we’d get more slides.

So, it was good for what it was.  Life in the pandemic dictates what we can do.  I think they could have done better with info, but maybe the things I wanted had not been nailed down yet.  I don’t think it had quite the impact that a live BlizzCon would have, but we still got some very big announcements.

BlizzConline and Burning Crusade Classic

We had the first day of BlizzConline yesterday.  There were some interesting announcements.  But what I was really there for was WoW Classic and The Burning Crusade expansion.  Holly Longdale got up there on the main stage… alone, no audience in the pandemic… during the opening ceremony and told us a bit about the coming of The Burning Crusade.  It wasn’t much more than a confirmation that it was coming, but it was at least that.  (Though, we knew it was coming due to that leak, but it is always good to hear somebody say it officially.)

Then, the first panel up was about that very topic.

How deep will they dive?

This was not what would have passed for a “deep dive” at past BlizzCon events.

The panel consisted of:

  • Holly Longdale – Lead Producer for WoW Classic
  • Patrick Dawson – Production Director for WoW
  • Brian Birmingham – Lead Software Engineer for WoW Classic

The panel started with the three of them talking about their impressions of TBC back in the day for a bit, then moved on to some tales of getting the old code working within the current WoW framework, all of which was fine and interesting, but wasn’t delivering a lot of details that many fans… myself especially… were looking for.  There were no slides with bullet points or diagrams or any of the items one might have come to expect from such a presentation.

Towards the back half of the talk… it was only a 30 minute panel, so it wasn’t a long wait.. they finally started spilling out some details.

The first solid nugget in my notes was about Blood Elves and the Draenei.  They will be released into the game with the TBC pre-patch to allow players to have a chance to get leveled up some before everybody jumps through the dark portal.

Then details for characters and servers came up.

The current servers will become progression servers, a term many of us from EverQuest will remember, as SOE started doing that back in 2006 with The Sleeper and The Combine servers.  (see timeline) All of the current WoW Classic servers will move forward to TBC.

If you don’t want to go there, you will have an option.  On launch day you will make the choice for all of your characters, to stay and progress forward into TBC or to move to one of the new WoW Classic servers that will launch the same day that will remain forever vanilla.

If, at a later date, you regret your choice of committing to forever vanilla, there will be a paid service option that will let you copy a character from one of those servers to a TBC server.  You will then, at that moment, have two identical characters in each realm.  They will diverge as soon as you go through the portal and get your first gear drop, but you can be in both worlds.

Meanwhile, if you don’t want to play through all of that WoW Classic crap because TBC was your favorite part of WoW, Blizzard will have an option for you as well.  They will be offering a level 58 character boost… no Blood Elves or Draenei, sorry… so that you can jump straight to the dark portal and get going.  Oh, and you can only have one character boost per account.  If you want to raise an army of level 58s, you’ll have to do it the old fashioned way.

No pricing was announced for either the copy or the level 58 character boost.

In fact, few hard details were shared.  There were certainly no dates.  Beta will start “soon,” for whatever value you care to assign to that variable.  The rumor about a May launch seems even more laughably wrong than it did when I first heard it give how little concrete we got from this.  The tone of the discussion indicated to me that they have more work to do and want to allow time to find and fix issues before it goes live.

If you are keen to see the panel, Blizzard posted it to their YouTube channel almost immediately after it was done, so here it is.

I do want to say how weird/wonderful it was to see Holly Longdale, so long the voice of EverQuest and something of a champion for the “classic” retro experience being not just a valid desire for fans, but a lucrative direction for companies to pursue.  There is clearly a synergy… and I use that word here unironically, which is so very rare for me… between her experience and where Blizzard now wants to go with their retro WoW experience.

Anyway, that was the WoW Classic part of BlizzConline.  Tomorrow, the rest of it.

Related:

 

BlizzConline Spoiled

I was going to write a night before/morning of prediction post about BlizzConline, which kicks off at 2pm Pacific Time, 22:00 UTC, today.  There were some likely bits of news we were going to hear as well as some speculation as to what other items Blizz might announce.

BlizzCon Online Today and Tomorrow

And then somebody at Blizzard accidentally let the WoW press kit out of the bag and the gaming news sites raced to publish every detail a day before the event.  That kind of takes the edge off of guessing whether or not we’ll get The Burning Crusade in classic form or what the next step for Shadowlands will be. (Here is the WoW Head version, if you’re dying to see it.)

Yes, there always seem to be leaks of some sort when it comes to BlizzCon.  The company even attempts to signal things to the fans now and then.  But when you straight up get the press release a day and a half in advance… well, the anticipation is somewhat drained.

I am still going to watch the presentations.  As I have said before, you can glean a surprising amount of information from somebody speaking about a topic that might go unmentioned in a groomed and vetted press release.  Naturally, there will be a post-con write up of my impressions.

And there are still questions about other Blizzard franchises.  What will be the news of Diablo IV?  When will Diablo Immortal finally ship?  Will they confirm a Diablo II remaster?  Does Blizzard have anything else new and/or exciting to announce?

The event schedule looks fairly anodyne, but we have seen in the past that Blizz can update the schedule based on announcements during the keynote.  Remember in 2018 when all the Diablo panels became Diablo Immortal panels?  Okay, forget that one, that was a bad example.

Who knows.  Maybe the WoW press release was just a plant, a diversion, and J. Allen Brack will go up on stage and tell us we don’t really want The Burning Crusade and we’ll be retweeting variations of that Willy Wonka “You Get Nothing!” meme all next week.

BlizzConline is Coming along with the Blizz 30th Anniversary

As I mentioned previously, BlizzConline, the virtual replacement for last year’s cancelled BlizzCon, is coming this month, kicking off on Friday, February 19th.

BlizzCon Online is the way I always attend anyway

With that date rapidly approaching, Blizz has started giving us details about what to expect over the two day virtual event.  There is even a trailer.

 

The event will be free to watch live on the Blizzard site as well as replays.  There will also be support for a dozen languages for live stream or video replay.  Blizz has even done some interviews about how they reworked BlizzCon into an online only event.

The two days are set to play out as:

  • Day 1 will kick off at 2 p.m. PST on Friday, February 19, with an opening segment that includes a first look at some of the latest game content the development teams have been working on. Then for the next three-plus hours, you’ll have the option to tune in to one of the six different themed channels, so you can decide whether you want to sample a little bit of everything or dig deeper into the games you’re interested in most.
    .
  • Day 2 will pick back up at 12 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 20, with multiple channels once again, until the fun wraps up at later that afternoon. Throughout this second day, we’ll be shining a spotlight on the global Blizzard community, including the winners and outstanding entries in the Community Showcase contests and exhibitions.

All of the streams will be available to rewatch if you miss anything.

Meanwhile, Blizzard is also celebrating the 30th anniversary of their founding, back when Mike Morhaime borrows money from his grandmother to help start the company then known as Silicon & Synapse.

Blizzard – A long way from 1991

Blizzard plans to celebrate this anniversary by selling you a bunch of expensive cosmetic items.  Commemorate 30 years of gaming by giving Blizzard some more money.  Seriously, I was tempted to append “cash grab” to the end of the title of this post, but I was starting to feel excessively cynical, even for me.

There are three different celebration bundles you can purchase.

  • Essentials Pack – $20 includes
    • Moon-Touched Netherwhelp pet for World of Warcraft®
    • Tracer’s OSV-03 Rogue mount with Tracer Hero in Heroes of the Storm®
    • 30th Anniversary Overwatch® player icon and spray (coming soon) plus 5 Loot Boxes
    • A set of StarCraft® II and StarCraft: Remastered portraits commemorating three decades of Blizzard (coming soon)
    • 10 Madness at the Darkmoon Faire™ card packs for Hearthstone®
    • A pet and portrait for Diablo® III (coming soon)
  • Heroic Pack – $40 adds
    • Snowstorm mount for World of Warcraft
    • Raynhardt (legendary) in Overwatch (coming soon)
    • Random Madness at the Darkmoon Faire Legendary card in Hearthstone
    • Diablo III wings (coming soon)
  • Epic Pack – $60 adds
    • 30 days of World of Warcraft game time
    • 5 Golden Madness at the Darkmoon Faire card packs in Hearthstone
    • 3 Golden Loot Boxes for Overwatch
    • Diablo III Helm Transmog Items (coming soon)

There are bits and pieces in each for all of the current Blizzard titles, but if you only play one title regularly like I do, then the pricing might seem a bit dear.  As a WoW player the packs get me:

  • Essentials Pack – pet
  • Heroic Pack – pet and mount
  • Epic Pack – pet and mount and 30 days of game time

So, even if I was a dedicated collector of such things… and I can be… the heroic pack would be the limit to my needs.  Why would I pay $20 more to get $15 worth of game time?

So there it is.  We can start speculating as to what we might hear about come the 19th and whether or not any of this cosmetic fluff is worth the price Blizz is asking.

Friday Bullet Points Including a Free WoW Weekend and Multi-boxing

It is Friday and I have a few short but timely items to write about, so it is time to go into PowerPoint mode and crank out some bullet points.  I will read them directly off the slide during my presentation just to annoy you.

  • Free World of Warcraft Weekend

Blizzard has declared that November 5th through the 8th is “Welcome back Weekend,” which means you can log in and play WoW for free as though you were a subscriber.

Free for a while

This will allow you to check out the new starting zone experience and the level squish.  I am sure a dedicated player could get a fresh character to the level cap in just a weekend.

The one thing this offer does not include is WoW Classic.  See the fine print.

  • WoW and Multi-boxing

Blizzard posted a notice this week that has been widely misinterpreted as a ban on multi-boxing.  There are a lot of bad headlines out there that say multi-boxing has been banned.  This is not technically true.

Rather, Blizzard has decided that software like ISBoxer that can be used to broadcast keyboard and mouse inputs to multiple clients will no longer be allowed.  The statement specifically calls out that, and that alone, as what is being banned.

Veterans of EVE Online know what I am talking about, as ISBoxer and like software has been banned there for a while.  Once upon a time there was a player who would fly a fleet of stealth bombers and do exactly timed bombing runs.

In WoW you can spot people using such software that fairly easily.  The classic example from a while back was a full group of shaman moving in unison, dropping the same totems as a group, and casting the same spells at the same time.

Warnings will be issued for those using such software now, ramping to “account actions,” up to and including bans, over time.

But you can still multi-box and long as you are not using input broadcasting software.  There are even some addons out there that will help you out with that.  But no more ISBoxer.

  • Shadowlands Beta

I think it is pretty safe to say that if I have now gotten an invite to the Shadowlands beta, then anybody who wants in can probably get in.

Something in my inbox last week

While it is getting close to the launch date there is still time to get in and provide feedback.  Blizz has been posting about areas and items they would like people to try.

  • BlizzConline will be Free

While BlizzCon was cancelled this year to the pandemic, Blizzard previously announced they would be doing a virtual BlizzCon, BlizzConline, February 19th and 20th of next year.

BlizzCon Online is the way I always attend anyway

In an eight minute fireside chat video with J. Allen Brack, he confirmed that the online event, which will also mark Blizzard’s 30th year as a company, will be available for free;  no virtual ticket required. (~50 seconds into the video)

 

BlizzCon Online Coming February 19th 2021

It has been a few months since Blizzard announced that BlizzCon was cancelled for 2020.  That update held out the possibility of some alternative to the in-person event that Blizzard puts on most years down at the Anaheim convention center.  Today we got an update.  There will be a BlizzCon Online in early 2021.  BlizzConline.

BlizzCon Online is the way I always attend anyway

The opening says:

Attune your chronometers, flip your hourglasses, set a notification on your phone—however you mark the passage of time, save the date for BlizzConline™, set to take place February 19–20, 2021!

While circumstances are keeping us from gathering in person this year, we’re putting together a little something early next year to channel the spirit of BlizzCon into the form of an online show. We still have a lot of planning to do, and it’ll be some time before we’re ready to share more details—but we wanted to provide a heads-up on how you can be a part of the online fun.

Details are sparse at this time, though there is a plan for some events like a community showcase, which will include:

  • Cosplay Exhibition
  • Cosplay Contest
  • Art Contest
  • Digital Storytelling Contest
  • Talent Spotlight
  • March of the Murlocs

The deadline to sign up for these events is January 4, 2021.  Details about each and a link to sign up are included in the announcement.

BlizzCon Cancelled for 2020

Blizzard has put out an update to say that there will not be a BlizzCon down in Anaheim this year.  Not an unexpected turn of events given the state of the pandemic, the uncertainty surrounding when things like this will be safe again, and the past statement from Blizz.

BlizzCon in Blue

The statement was short enough to quote here:

Hello Blizzard community,

Several weeks ago, I shared an update about our uncertainty around holding BlizzCon this year. Since then, a lot has changed . . . and a lot also hasn’t changed. During this time, we’ve had many discussions about what holding a convention could look like in light of all the health and safety considerations we’d want to make. We’ve also talked about different paths we could take, and how each one could be complicated by fluctuations in national and local health guidelines in the months ahead. Ultimately, after considering our options, we’ve come to the very difficult decision to not have BlizzCon this year.

We’re feeling deeply disappointed about this decision, and imagine many of you will feel the same. I truly love BlizzCon, and I know that’s a sentiment shared by everyone at Blizzard. We will sorely miss connecting with so many of you at the convention and “recharging our geek batteries” this fall.

But we will meet again!

We’re talking about how we might be able to channel the BlizzCon spirit and connect with you in some way online, far less impacted by the state of health and safety protocols for mass in-person gatherings. We’d want to do this as soon as we could, but given that this is new-ish territory and the different factors involved, it will most likely be sometime early next year. BlizzCon is also a stage for big esports events in Blizzard games each year, so we’re also looking into alternatives for supporting some of the high-level competition that would normally take place at the show.

We’ll tell you more about our plans as they develop—but in the meantime, we hope to see you exploring the Shadowlands, hanging out in the Tavern, pushing the payload (do it!), and wherever else in the Blizzard universes you may roam.

Stay safe and stay well,

Saralyn Smith
Whirlwind Barbarian, Executive Producer of BlizzCon

This does hold out the possibility of some sort of virtual or online event… no doubt Blizzard will have some announcements coming that they will want to highlight… but the press of the big crowd in the Anaheim Convention Center and all that goes with it won’t be happening in 2020.

As for the “early next year” suggestion, I suspect that won’t come to pass unless things take a significant turn for the better and stay that way through the end of the year.

BlizzCon?

This week Blizzard posted a somewhat tentative note about the prospects for BlizzCon this year.

BlizzCon in Blue

The post reflects a lot of the uncertainty we all face currently.  Blizzard is continuing to plan and prepare for BlizzCon, along with some alternatives to the traditional annual gathering, as it is unclear what the world will be like come early November.

It isn’t as though Blizzard won’t have content for the event.  There will be something more concrete about Diablo IV certainly and some celebration of the Shadowlands expansion for WoW, which should have gone live by that point.  I also hope that they will be able to show us something about a plan for The Burning Crusade in retro server form.

So there is a foundation on which to build a BlizzCon.  But are we going to want an event with 40,000 people packed into the Anaheim Convention Center come the fall?  Other events, not to mention major league sports, have been hoping to resume normality come the summer, but it isn’t clear if that is a realistic expectation.  There is no vaccine yet, there is no cure, and the latest news seems to indicate that even if you’ve had COVID-19 you might not have immunity.

We may get a virtual BlizzCon instead.  Quite possibly an abbreviated version as well.  Perhaps Blizzard won’t put it behind a paywall?  That would be nice.

Of course, I might not care about BlizzCon come November.  Right now our family is lucky to be doing okay.  I still have a job, but my wife is on the shelf for the moment, as is my daughter.  And my daughter is expecting to go away to college in August.  There is a lot of uncertainty.

2020 and Predictions for a New Year

I have to say that the brightest point about the new year is that we have now moved into a decade that should be easily referred to.  Gone are the “teens” or whatever we called the last ten years, so bring on “the twenties!”  Whether they are “roaring,” “soaring,” or simply “boring” remains to be seen.  (And yes, it is a new decade. It has been proven beyond doubt.)

And, as happens every year, it is now time for me to expose my ignorance and nonsensical notions by attempting some predictions about what may come to pass in this fresh new year.

The history of this ritual is documented.  You can go back and see just how often I am wrong, which ranges between “almost always” and “damn near always.”

As always, each prediction is worth ten points, with partial credit available.  And, just because it comes up now and then, I will remind people that predictions are not wishes.  What I think will happen and what I want to happen are generally pretty different.

1 – Daybreak Up

When your predictions don’t come to pass… well, maybe you were just ahead of your time.  So I am going to recycle this one.  By the end of the year Daybreak Games won’t exist in its current form.  New owners, new acquisitions, new partners, or just spun out into a couple smaller studios built on geographical locations (San Diego and Austin being the basis), there will be drastic changes.

2 – Norrath Forever

Pessimism about the company overall aside, I expect the EverQuest franchise, fresh off a couple of big anniversaries, to continue humming along as before no matter where it lands.  There will be the usual content updates mid-cycle, a special server launch for each, and then the standard end-of-year expansions for each game.  You don’t mess with things that are working.

3 – Struggling Royales

H1Z1 and PlanetSide Arena will both be toast on the PC platform.  I wrote this before we got the word on PSA.  I won’t take half credit up front.  The burden will just be on H1Z1 or Z1 Battle Royale or whatever it is called now, to prove me wrong.

4 – PlanestSide Promises

Daybreak has been telling people they will have a big PlanetSide 2 related announcements in the new year.  But no matter what they announce, it will fall flat.  Daybreak has another game in decline and cannot figure out what to do about it.  I guess when your only answers in your bag are “battle royale” and “retro server,” you are kind of stuck.  What else do they have?  PlanetSide 2 on the Switch?  Expect little and you won’t be disappointed.

5 – Unexpected Party

Standing Stone Games will take a page from their… well… we still aren’t sure how Daybreak and SSG are connected so lets just say “partners” for now… partners in San Diego and roll out a new special rules Lord of the Rings Online server.  Like Blizz, SSG needs something splashy for LOTRO for its non-expansion years and the 2018 LOTRO Legendary server went pretty well for them.  However, rather than just replaying the nostalgia card once more they will make up a much more convoluted rule set for this new server.  It will go badly.

6 – Avatar’s Shroud

Lord British has washed his hands of the whole thing and the new company (Catnip Games, no doubt because you’d have to be on drugs to think things are going well) has already reneged on more promises, a sign that times are bad for this strange, very much not for everyone title.  I expect that online play will be shut down before the end of the year, leaving backers with local single player as their only option.

7 – Shadowlands Forseen

I am calling an August 18th launch for the next WoW expansion, Shadowlands.  That month has become the Blizz sweet spot for WoW launches.  Not a lot else tends to launch in August, there is the summer for pre-expansion events, and things tend to settle down by BlizzCon when the company likes to start talking about the next thing.  2 points lost for every week I am off the date.

8 – BlizzCon Announcements

Read my lips: No new games.  Just reworks, remasters, and expansions of the current games and franchises.  Maybe a mobile version of something… a tablet version of StarCraft or a watered down phone game with a Warcraft theme… but nothing new.  Need more pylons.

9 – Diablo Before

At BlizzCon there will talk about Diablo IV, along with some art and a bit of game play video.  What there won’t be is a release date announced in 2020.

10 – Wait of Immortals

For reasons that will not be disclosed, Diablo Immortal will fail to ship again in 2020.

11 – Classic Future

At BlizzCon, and not one minute before, Blizzard will announce a very conservative, no dates given save for maybe with a hint towards summer of 2021, plan for a classic server based on The Burning Crusade.

12 – Activision Encroachment

By the end of the year the Battle.net launcher will feature the Activision logo more prominently as it becomes the Activision-Blizzard launcher.  No need for the team in Santa Monica to roll out their own launcher when the team in Irvine already has one.

13 – New Eden in Decline

As mentioned before, CCP has gone into a very tactical phase of development with EVE Online.  That isn’t a bad thing.  The game needs it.  But there is no vision for the game, no future path being sketched out, and space nerds require optimism and forward motion.  Retaining another percent or two of new players won’t help much if the old guard can’t pass on enthusiasm to them.  I expect the 2020 PCU and MER numbers to show a slow, consistent decline.

14 – The Eternal POS

CCP will fail to remove the storied Player Owned Starbase from New Eden yet again.  They are growing exceedingly rare, but they are still out there.

15 – CSM XV

The usual round of CSM election nonsense will carry on.  In the end, it will be eight null sec representatives dominating the council again, with any null sec incumbent that runs getting returned.

16 – HyperNet Relay End Point

CCP will shut down its HyperNet Relay within a  year of it launch due to issues related to local gambling regulations, which will be spurred by the situation in the next prediction.  It is always a risk to chain predictions together, but I’ll go there yet again.

17 – Gacha Movement

After predicting no movement on lockboxes and gambling for a few years now, the pot seems to have heated up enough that the frog might be in trouble in 2020.  My assumption up to this point has been that the industry wouldn’t be dumb, that the ESA would promise that the industry would police itself with a few concrete proposals while dumping a lot of contributions on key political players.  But the industry has been greedy and dumb and arrogant and even antagonistic, what with “surprise mechanics” and trying to upstage hearings on the subject by loudly announcing a set of empty promises.  You have to look contrite and helpful in order to give politicians the cover they need to roll over and take your bribes contributions.  Also it is a presidential election year in the US, so politicians will be looking for softball issues to champion, and when the NRA is telling you that video games cause violence…  Anyway, the industry is going to have to actually put up something real to avoid regulation beyond Belguim.  Look at what happened to Juul when politicians decided it was a safe vote getter to jump on vaping.

18 – Guild Wars Decline

With the contractions and departures at ArenaNet, Guild Wars 2 will potter along with small updates, bits of content dressed up as living story seasons, and replays of tried and true things like the Super Adventure Box.  The game won’t be in “maintenance mode” the way Guild Wars is, but it will be clear a year from now that its heyday has passed.

19 – City of Villains

NCsoft will finally make a public announcement about the City of Heroes servers out in the wild using the original code.  It will come from a lawyer and will include the words “cease” and “desist.”  NCsoft will attempt to stomp out these servers and will force them to be much lower profile than they have been in 2019.  But they won’t go away.  Software, once freed, is very difficult to contain.

20 – New World Order

Amazon’s New World will be delayed past May to launch in the fall.  Once launched it will be… fine.  An Ark: Survival Evolved kind of game, probably what Smed wishes H1Z1 had been like at launch.  It won’t break any new ground and after a flash at launch will fade into the crowd, successful but not headline worthy.

21 – Won’t Ship Yet Again

The following titles won’t go live or otherwise be available to customers in any way that we would agree on was complete.  Early access, open beta, or eternal alpha states do not count.  Two Points per title.

  • Camelot Unchained
  • Crowfall
  • Torchlight Frontiers
  • Dual Universe
  • Anything at all from Chris Roberts

I’ll go negative points on that last one if he ships two things.  But I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

22 – GameStopped

The only way GameStop is going to be around a year from now is if they shed enough weight to make it into the Christmas season.  Black Friday might as well be “life or death” Friday for them.  But I don’t think they will make it that far unscathed.  In order to get the freedom of movement required to get that far they are going to have to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy.  That will let them get out of store leases and give them the breathing room to carry on.  But even then they will be a shell of their former selves by the time I write up the results post come December.

23 – Steam Engine

Life as usual for Steam.  The four usual seasonal sales.  Epic will keep sniping away and trying to get people to pay attention by throwing free games at them while most people will still see Steam as the default source of PC games.  It is the post office of gaming.  Steam will continue to revise their game acceptance policy, but otherwise carry on as always with no big changes in 2020.

Bonus Prediction – Guild Wars 3 Announced

Sure, why not?  Guild Wars 2 is slowly ebbing, NCsoft needs something to keep fans in that area happy, and I am sure there is a crew around that believes they have learned enough from GW2 to do it RIGHT this time!  They don’t have to ship anything.  At most they have to do some hand waving about another monuments thing for specific achievements, which will get people grinding away again.  Give me 10 bonus points if this comes to pass, though it is so out there that I ought to ask for more.

Super Double Bonus Prediction – PA buys Daybreak

This one came up a couple months back when Daybreak was registering new names for itself and CCP announced that EVE Vegas was going to become EVE San Diego.  The obvious (to me) conclusion was that Pearl Abyss MUST be buying Daybreak and then merging their fan events together.  I left this as a comment and it became a post over at Massively OP.  I figured I ought to codify it here as a prediction.  Have a couple of drinks and say it three times fast and it sounds pretty logical.  And if it comes to pass I want 20 bonus points.

Scoring

That gives me 230 possible points from the core questions, plus the extra credit bonus questions.  Now I just have to sit tight and wait for eleven and a half months to see what comes to pass.

Looking Back at BlizzCon 2019

BlizzCon 2019 was sure a hell of a lot better for Blizzard than BlizzCon  2018.

I watched some of panels I wanted to see, but not all of them yet.  So, while this isn’t quite a hot take on the event, it is my impressions about what was announced in a slightly more detailed fashion than my recap of the big four announcements post I did on Friday.  That post has links to all the cinematics and game play videos that Blizz posted as they announced things, if those interest you.

So, lets dive in by categories that almost line up by franchise.

World of Warcraft

A new expansion.  Pretty much a requirement at BlizzCons that fall on odd numbered years.  So they got that right.  But honestly, I am not sure how I feel about Shadowlands.

Part of that is just what you get when your game gets past maybe three expansions, they start to blur for all but the most hardcore.  There are some cool things in the plan.  The covenants things seems like it could make for interesting choices.  I like the return to a plan to focus on classes rather than specs.  A single narrative arc that drives you through four zones in order is back to the old school, and how alts will be handled seems innovative.

No more re-grinding

Better character customization is good direction.  Everybody can be a death knight now.  But the ideas for a new class… again, perfect chance for a necromancer class to show up… seems to have been bypassed.  And thus in its way it will be more of the same, more zones, more levels, more dungeons, more raids, and so on.  And it feels a bit like they were inspired by Stranger Things, which means we will no doubt run into plenty of references to the show.

It sure looks like the Azeroth Upsidedown to me

Wait, did I say “more levels?”  I meant LESS levels.  The level squish is coming.

Leveling up after Shadowlands

I said Blizz wouldn’t do it, so I have clearly been proven wrong on that front.  And my concerns from that post remain, though there are some updsides.  It sounds like they will rescale… again… all of the old content so you can get to level 50 playing through any previous expansion then head into the Shadowlands.  Still, it will be odd to have max level characters in WoW and WoW Classic at the same level.  There were more details about this in the deep dive, which I watched, and I will probably throw together another post just to look at how leveling is going to change with Shadowlands.  But the level squish is coming.

Overall though, you can color me somewhat interested in the expansion.   I am sure the fact that it was made available for pre-order will get hopes up that it will show up sooner rather than later, but I doubt it will show any time before June of 2020.

There is no doubt another post to be made in Blizz moving to three levels of expansion packages, especially just as Daybreak moved to four levels.  No level 120… eventually level 50… boost with the base package either.

MMO Champion has a good outline of the main presentation.  Or you can look at the pretty pictures on the official expansion page.

WoW Classic

We got the very bare minimum of news about WoW Classic, something I indicated might end up being the case back at the start of October.  There was a bit of “isn’t this great!” and the date for the phase 2 unlock (November 12th), and that was that.  No future plans, no talk about expansions, and nothing even daring to look in the direction of somebody low key hinting that there might be anything like original content for the WoW Classic path.

In fact, WoW Classic was stuck in the “oh, by the way” section of the keynote with StarCraft II and Heroes of  the Storm.  Talk about being put on the bench.  Even at the WoW Q&A session the question about future expansions for WoW Classic was pretty much deflected.

But Blizzard moves slowly, something I have to keep reminding myself.  I am sure they are still trying to figure out what to do with this unexpected success story.  We will likely have to wait until next BlizzCon to hear anything new I guess, but that will put it after the Shadowlands launch, so Blizz will be able to focus on it.

I will say though, at least we got a self deprecating crack from J. Allen Brack about serving vanilla ice cream at the BlizzCon concessions.  He didn’t think we would want it, but it turns out we did.

I don’t find Brack to be a particularly compelling or convincing speaker.  He lacks Metzen’s energy or Morhaime’s air of goofy humility.  And, of course, after the infamous quote, I associate him with a level of smug condescension, which biases my perception even when I agree with what he is saying.  We all see things through our own filters.  But at least he was willing to stand up there and remind everybody how wrong he was.

I previously wrote that if he said something about that quote I’d stop bringing it up every time I mentioned him.  I think I can stick to that now.  I won’t mention it every time, though I reserve the right to bring it up when it fits the situation.

Diablo

Diablo IV was announced, to nobody’s surprise.

It looks interesting.  I like the direction they are going.  Darker.  A more open world.  Mounts even.  No RMT auction house.  I have no doubt I will play it some day.  But that day will be… when?  2022?

I guess I can see why they didn’t want to announce it last year.

Basically, I will be a lot more interested in this when it seems like its launch is imminent.

Overwatch

Again, if even I was predicting something like Overwatch 2 more than a month ago, then having that announced was probably not a huge surprise.

I am not an Overwatch player.  I don’t even eat the cereal.  But I am interested in how they are handling Overwatch 2, which is more like an expansion than a new game.

If you own Overwatch, you can keep playing that and your play will overlap with Overwatch 2 players, which includes all the original content plus all the goodies you may have gotten.  Overwatch 2 players will get their own content as well, including a PvE campaign.

I think the latter, the PvE campaign, might be the key here.  The thing that the original lacked was new stuff to sell players… besides loot boxes.  And if loot boxes are you revenue stream it might be prudent to diversify that a bit.  But additional PvE co-op campaigns, that is something Blizz could sell people on.

It is interesting to see how they have chosen to go.  EA gets you to buy their latest Battlefield game by shutting off the servers to the past ones.  I assume Activision does something similar with their Call of Duty games, along with leaving a year gap between launches and trying to add new gimmicks with each annual generation.  In contrast, Blizz wants to keep people playing together.  I suspect that you won’t be able to buy Overwatch once Overwatch 2 is out.  But if you do have the original, you won’t be left completely out in the cold.

Hearthstone

A new expansion.  What a surprise!  It isn’t like we don’t get a few of those every year in any case.

The real surprise was that Blizz decided to take the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea and integrate it with Hearthstone with their new Battlegrounds play mode.  That demonstrates some oddly un-Blizzard-like thinking, since the obvious route was to copy Teamfight Tactics and Dota Underlords and build it off of their MOBA.  I didn’t exactly get how this was going to work, in part because the description during the opening ceremony was pretty fast and in part because I have no interest in Hearthstone so I didn’t watch the panel where it would have been explained.

At least I haven’t watched it yet.  It was well down on my list of priorities.  I might still, just to get an idea where Blizz is going with this.

Warcraft III Reforged

The re-release of Warcraft III seems to be getting closer.  No ship date was announced, but they are spreading the beta further afield now.  If you were at BlizzCon or had the Virtual Ticket, you now have access to the beta and can download it from the Battle.net launcher.  I was actually in already, as I saw I was able to install it early last week, though I couldn’t tell you if that was because I was special or because they started opening it up to Virtual Ticket holders early.  Either way, it seems unlikely that I will download it to play before it goes live.

StarCraft II and Heroes of the Storm

A new commander and a new AI for the former, and new unit for the latter, all mentioned during what felt like an apologetic side bar in the midst of the opening ceremonies.  I was not expecting much, and so was unsurprised when that was exactly what we got.  Still, being in the same segment where they mentioned the Blizzard Arcade at BlizzCon, where you could go play Rock n Roll Racing and Lost Vikings, does tend to set a tone.

The Heroes of the Storm fans are probably happy for any scraps they get, but the StarCraft II playerbase has to have some mixed feelings since SCII is still one of the Blizz esports titles.

Unmentioned

I did not hear anything about the remaster of Diablo II yet again.  It came up as part of the ideal for Diablo IV, but it was left out otherwise.  I still want this.  I would happily take a GoG.com version updated to run on Windows 10, though I would really like something more akin to the Warcraft III Reforged full remaster for modern screen sizes.  Maybe someday.

Then, maybe I missed it, but I didn’t hear anything about Diablo: Immortal.  Did fan reaction really bury that?  My complaint from last year wasn’t that it wouldn’t find an audience, just that it was presented to the wrong audience.  They put some updates on the official site… it was mixed in with the feed on their “all news” page… but they seemed loathe to mention it yet again in front of a live studio audience.

Also, any hope for a completely new game or IP was left in the dust.  Everything was an expansion or a sequel.  There wasn’t even a mobile version of any other Blizzard IPs mentioned.  Hearthstone might have had the only new idea… or, newly stolen idea, this being Blizzard and all… with it picking up the Auto Chess/Auto Battler idea.

Virtual Ticket

The Virtual Ticket plan still seems like an acceptable value to me.  There is still a list of panels I want to watch that I could not make time for over the weekend, so I am able to watch them at my leisure.  As I noted previously, this year Blizz has decided that access to the videos will remain up until March 2020.

One feature I noticed was that Blizz also gave Virtual Ticket holders access to the videos from the past two BlizzCons as well.  So you can, if you want, go back and watch the horrible Diablo: Immortal panel or the informative Play Nice, Play Fair panel that was completely bypassed by the gaming media that often rages about how companies like Blizzard do nothing to contain player toxicity.

BlizzCon Overall

This should have been pretty much the ideal BlizzCon for the company, with four big product announcements.  Back at the start of October it looked to be huge.  And then, of course, there was the Hong Kong thing, which necessitated the apology, which I covered in its own post.

After Blizz banned Blitzchung and the outrage was at its peak there were wild predictions that they might even cancel BlizzCon.  Or, if BlizzCon went on, it would be tightly controlled, a mirror image of the repressive Chinese state on stage in Anaheim.  Would Brack even get up in front of the audience live, or would he just appear on the monitor so the engineers could cut out the sounds of the crowd should they get 40,000 people chanting “Free Hong Kong!” or some such?  Would Blizzard be able to contain the outrage of the fan base?

In the end, things went mostly as they usually do.  The vast majority of the fans were there to see Blizz and to revel in the spectacle and be a part of the event.   Cheering was the norm.  And when, during the WoW Q&A panel, a questioner ended his interaction with a message about Hong Kong, he wasn’t cut off or ejected from the event.  People chanted a bit and Blizz let it all pass like the guy in the Winnie the Pooh costume, who showed up on camera at least once.

People will take whatever message they want from that.  You can read into that the promise of better behavior from Brack’s apology, or you can assume it is Blizz throwing a minimal bone to some fans that does not otherwise reflect corporate policy.  It still puts them ahead of the NBA in either case.

In the end though, Blizz clearly won the news cycle.  Every “What about Hong Kong?” story had to contend with a dozen or more “OMG! New Things!” stories out of BlizzCon.  With that and what will likely be a somewhat rosy Q3 2019 earnings report later this week (thanks to WoW Classic) and the 15th Anniversary WoW events coming up, the company seems to be well positioned for the balance of the year.