Tag Archives: BlizzConline

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.