Tag Archives: StarCraft II

BlizzCon 2015 – Scoring Need vs. Greed

Last Monday I put up a post which I called “Announcements and Need vs. Greed” that outlined what I thought Blizzard would announce (need) and what I wanted them to announce (greed).  That was actually a good time to write, on my part, because I managed to post before any of the pre-BlizzCon leaks.

BlizzCon2015

Now it is a week later, BlizzCon is in the past, and it is time to match up what I wrote versus what happened.  This time around I will go in reverse order from last time.

Overwatch

Need:

  • Whoo hoo, Overwatch!!1!

Plenty of that!

  • More cinematics

We got that as well.

  • More beta slots

I did not see any mention of this however.

Greed:

  • Vague gesture at a possible launch date

We got “Spring” so I think that counts.

  • Even more cinematics

Do the character intro reels count?

  • How this totally isn’t Heroes of the Storm crossed with Team Fortress 2

Okay, maybe I was being sarcastic.  Still, with more heroes, and female heroes, I guess they were at least on track for that.

  • Some sort of benefit for WoW subscribers

Does something from the pre-order count?

So lots of Overwatch hype, and a business model.  You’re going to have to buy a box, virtual or otherwise.  My daughter was especially hyped up about the Overwatch news, right up until she found out it was going to be available on Mac OS.  It will run on Window, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, but not her iMac.  She was very grumpy about that.

Hearthstone

Need:

  • New card pack that will make the old ones feel obsolete and bring in some more money

Well, duh… in conjunction with something else at least…

Greed:

  • Another new battle mode

League of Explorers and all that.  That seems new-ish… I mean, there is a map right there on the playing board, right?  Maybe I should have paid more attention.

  • The ability to play within WoW, with benefits for WoW subscribers.

Not so much.  I want to play on that little board in my garrison.  I might even resubscribe for that.

People who like Hearthstone seem genuinely excited about being able to buy more stuff.  People like me, who played just long enough to get the hearthsteed… well, as long as it is making Blizz some money.

Heroes of the Storm

Need:

  • Reasons for people to spend money

More heroes, more skins.  That counts, right?

Greed:

  • Non-dull play mode

That was actually a trick statement, as I find the game itself dull.  Still, Arena mode will be a thing.  Wooo.

Even as a non-fan of HotS, I was at least amused that they took that long time WoW forum joke about two people each playing one head of two headed ogre and made it a thing.  Long live Cho’gall I guess.  I will be interested in how it spreads.  People at BlizzCon and with a Virtual Ticket will get the hero unlocked, but for everybody else you have to win two matches partnered up with somebody who has Cho’gall… playing as Cho’gall… to unlock it on your account.  I expect comedy, rage, and RMT to ensue.

StarCraft

Need:

  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!

Well, we got that.

Greed:

  • Secret, surprise feature, like the ability to play the original StarCraft in SC2.

While there was a leak later in the week about Blizz hiring to convert StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III into something playable on current operating systems, that wasn’t talked about at BlizzCon and is somewhere out in the future.

Meanwhile, StarCraft 2 will be getting DLC next year.  So at least there will be new things to do after Legacy of the Void.  And StarCraft 2 was pretty good as a spectator sport at BlizzCon.  I certainly prefer it to any MOBA.

Diablo

Here is where the disappointment train pulls into the station.

Need:

  • A new Diablo III expansion

No

  • A vague timeline for beta

No

  • Something else special for people who complete season objectives

Sort of…

Greed:

  • Diablo IV announced – I actually think this is the way to go

Hah, no

  • Diablo and/or Diablo II being ported to the Diablo III engine

No

  • Diablo or Diablo II coming to tablets

No

For anybody moaning about WoW not getting enough time during the keynote, let’s talk about how much time Diablo III got.  None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

This was not the year for the Diablo franchise.  There was one panel where it was announced that Diablo III would be getting a patch that would give players a new zone and a few other goodies.  That was it for Diablo fans.  Certainly nothing else to spend money on.  Blizz has been happy to announce how many boxes they have sold, but no new boxes are on the horizon yet.

So clearly BlizzCon 2016 will have the Diablo IV announcement, right?

World of Warcraft

Need:

  • The cinematic

We got it.  It was okay.

  • Chris Metzen on stage having an orgasm about the lore in Legion

There was some discussion as to whether or not Metzen had a “loregasm” or if it was just “loreplay,” but he was up there on stage doing what he does best.  Somebody on Twitter was complaining that he wasn’t dispensing details.  That isn’t what you put Metzen on stage to do.  He is the emotional call to action, not the numbers and specs man.

  • Hard dates for beta

Not so much.

  • Something vague about a ship date that will narrow it down to a three month window

I think “summer” pretty much fits the bill there, though remember when summer ends on US calendars.

  • A decent “hook” for Legion beyond “ten more levels and a class from Diablo III

There were lots of details in various panels that got people excited.  Now we just have to wait until it ships in about a year.

Greed:

  • A ship date

Didn’t expect it.  We’ll get that in May/June I bet.

  • Ravenholdt as the rogue Order Hall

So sorry.

  • Some reason to resubscribe today

I can pre-order Legion and have another level 100 character today… which would make six for me.  And that character would even get a level 3 garrison so I could expand my grind even further.

  • Some tie-in with the Warcraft movie

Not that I saw.  Did I miss something?

So lots of stuff about Legion.  I think people who complained about WoW not getting enough time at the keynote are forgetting that it isn’t 2009 any more.  There was a stretch there when WoW was pretty much the only game Blizzard had and BlizzCon was, essentially, WoWCon with a StarCraft tournament in the back room for the oddballs.

Now though, Blizzard has six balls in the air… well, five balls in the air and Diablo on the ground and rolling towards a dusty corner.  And they need some attention.  Would you buy the game that they didn’t mention in the keynote?

Anyway, Legion is the classic WoW expansion.  A new continent, 10 more levels, a new class, and an attempt to steer the ship in a new direction based on what they learned with the last expansion.  Specs will be differentiated, and you’ll be able to play all the specs on a character… so I guess having two level cap druids isn’t necessary any more… while skill trees will be more varied and will have more “meaningful” choices.

There is some further emphasis on exploration, though there will be no flying at launch, so people who can’t explore below 10,000 feet will be raging.  Hone your sense of entitlement and let the flight wars begin anew!

Then there is the whole scaling zones and dungeons thing.  You can go in any direction you want to level up, five zones will scale at need as will the five leveling dungeons.  Then there are five more level cap dungeons.  Cheers for getting everybody off the same pipe through the content, but I expect issues with the scaling and likely won’t be disappointed.

And then, after completely trivializing crafting in WoD, there will is an attempt to bring it back from the dead in Legion.

All of which is as maybe.  Things sometimes prove too complicated or prove unworkable in beta.

Still, despite my cynicism, it does sound like it might be time to plot a return to Azeroth.  My daughter seems keen, and doubly so after I explained the hunter specs to her.  Also, she has been trying out EVE Online for the last week and is so confused that she wants to just run quests and kill mobs.

We’re not running out to resubscribe today… and nobody in our house is pre-ordering Legion any time soon if I have any say… but after months away… I’ve been out since June and my daughter since March… Christmas break might be a good time to get cozy in front of a monitor and start wrapping up tasks in Draenor.  Coming in late has served us well in the past.  I think I enjoyed Pandaria as much as I did, in part, because we came in after the last big content patch.  So while others were wailing about the content drought, we were still figuring out farms and getting into pet battles.

Others looking at BlizzCon and WoW in particular:

BlizzCon 2015 – Announcements and Need vs. Greed

BlizzCon is coming up at the end of this week, time once again for Blizzard to strut its stuff and gets its fan base excited about what it has in store for the next twelve months.

BlizzCon2015

Of course, Blizzard announces things at other points during any given year.  But BlizzCon is a time of special focus, two days of all Blizzard and nothing but Blizzard that will focus the wider gaming and tech focused press on the company and its wares.

However, Blizzard already had to give us a big announcement this summer, the intro to the next WoW expansion, Legion. (Otherwise known as The Burning Crusade II – Part 2)

Single word expansion title? Really stretching so far!

Single word expansion titles worry me…

Of course, it sure felt like Blizzard was pushed to announce Legion this summer, rather than waiting until BlizzCon, due to the fact that the Activision Blizzard second quarter 2015 results came out and indicated that WoW had dropped to 5.6 million subscribers, which set them back to late 2005 numbers.

And so, two days after that bombshell, Blizzard got on stage at GamesCon and announced WoW Legion.  The timing of the announcement, and the fact that the cinematic wasn’t ready yet, sure made it feel like Blizzard had to announce something to rally its fan base.

Now comes BlizzCon and we’re in something of a similar situation.  The convention opens this Friday, November 6th (along with the new James Bond movie here in the US).  But the Activision Blizzard third quarter results are also due this week, coming out tomorrow, November 3rd, at 1:30pm Pacific (19:30 UTC), and will carry with it the WoW subscription numbers.

At this point they cannot simply opt out of reporting those numbers, having done so in the past and the numbers being such a material indicator of the health of their billion dollar (annual revenues) baby.

What will the numbers be?  My gut says down, but not by a lot.  Maybe down to 5 million at the most, but a small enough drop to claim stability.  However, anything besides stability or growth in that number will need something big to counteract it later in the week.

Anyway, with that in mind, I will now project my feelings and personal biases onto what I think is coming at BlizzCon.  As usual, I will divide that into two categories.

Need – What I think they HAVE to have/say/do at BlizzCon

Greed – What I really want them to have/say/do at BlizzCon

World of Warcraft

So often called and 800 lb. gorilla that I am surprised that isn’t the franchise logo.  When you bring in a billion dollars a year, what happens to you matters.  Hearthstone might have a better ROI and Overwatch might be the exciting new shiny, but WoW is where the big money is.

Need:

  • The cinematic
  • Chris Metzen on stage having an orgasm about the lore in Legion
  • Hard dates for beta
  • Something vague about a ship date that will narrow it down to a three month window
  • A decent “hook” for Legion beyond “ten more levels and a class from Diablo III

Greed:

  • A ship date
  • Ravenholdt as the rogue Order Hall
  • Some reason to resubscribe today
  • Some tie-in with the Warcraft movie

Diablo

Blizzard has been touting how many boxes the game has sold.  Given that is the main way the game makes any money, I would expect that another box would have to be in the wings.  I do not think Blizz is going to let the franchise sit idle for a decade like they did after Diablo II.  And since they pretty much setup the story to continue at the end of Reaper of Souls, well…

Need:

  • A new Diablo III expansion
  • A vague timeline for beta
  • Something else special for people who complete season objectives

Greed:

  • Diablo IV announced – I actually think this is the way to go
  • Diablo and/or Diablo II being ported to the Diablo III engine
  • Diablo or Diablo II coming to tablets

StarCraft

StarCraft II is launching what everybody expects to be the final expansion for the game, Legacy of the Void,next week.  Given that, they cannot really muddy the waters with new announcements.  So there is not much to say there.

Need:

  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!

Greed:

  • Secret, surprise feature, like the ability to play the original StarCraft in SC2.

Hearthstone

Now we’re getting into the Blizzard titles that don’t really hold any sway over me.  Still, I think I can call it for Hearthstone.

Need:

  • New card pack that will make the old ones feel obsolete and bring in some more money

Greed:

  • Another new battle mode
  • The ability to play within WoW, with benefits for WoW subscribers.

Heroes of the Storm

Is Heroes of the Storm still a thing?  I mean, Hearthstone is at least an adjunct to WoW.  HotS is a MOBA, and for me MOBAs are like a one unit RTS, neither fun to play nor watch. (The same applies to LoL and DOTA2 frankly.  HotS isn’t uniquely bad from my point of view.)

Need:

  • Reasons for people to spend money

Greed:

  • Non-dull play mode

Overwatch

Last year’s big announcement.  And they have already announced beta for it.  What else can they possibly add for Overwatch at this BlizzCon?  And given how little it appears on the schedule, when would they announce it?

Need:

  • Whoo hoo, Overwatch!!1!
  • More cinematics
  • More beta slots

Greed:

  • Vague gesture at a possible launch date
  • Even more cinematics
  • How this totally isn’t Heroes of the Storm crossed with Team Fortress 2
  • Some sort of benefit for WoW subscribers

And that is all I’ve got.

You can tell that, aside from some Diablo III, and I am not very invested in Blizzard at the moment. I am not even predicting any surprised, like a Warcraft IV RTS, as I tend to do.

I am honestly more interested in what tomorrows investor’s call will say about WoW.  Did the Legion announcement and things like time walking stop the bleeding.  Are they down to the core, always stays subscribed audience yet. (Five million credit cards on auto-pilot would be a hell of a business model on its own.)

What do you think the big number will be tomorrow?

Addendum: The correct answer was “About the same” with subs dipping just 100K, to 5.5 million.

Jacked Up But Clearly Not Good to Go!

I played a lot of StarCraft back when it was new… which was back in early 1998.  My friends and I played it after work at the office and at home via Battle.net.  As so many have said, it was a very well balanced RTS with three distinctly different factions to learn.  Our interest in it kept going right through the Brood War expansion. (Though when I look at the dates, Brood War came out eight months after the main game, which might be some sort of Blizzard record for shipping an expansion.)

Anyway, I have written a bit about StarCraft before and it has come up now and again for our group as a possible game to go back to.  The primary arguments against it tend to be the fact that it runs at 640×480 resolution and that none of us are really into RTS games much any more.  It was a game from a specific point in my timeline, and that time may have passed.

But I still have strong memories of it.  Even my wife remembers the game.  Back when it was current my then wife-to-be and I shared an office in her condo so when I played video games I either had to put on headphones or share the audio experience with her, and the audio StarCraft left its mark.  To this day she will, every so often, as if I ever play “Jacked up and good to go!” any more, that being one of the more memorable Terran Marine quotes.

Since then StarCraft II has (finally) shown up, but while I have written about it a bit… mostly in the context of Blizzard as a whole… I have never gotten around to buying the game.  I have thought about it, but since I play MMOs now, and since those tend to consume all available gaming time, I am not sure when I would play.  Plus, for me, it was always a group game, so buying it myself would seem… odd.  The campaigns were never the high point, it was always about playing with friends.  (Though with playing at work a thing of the past due to IT policy, I am not sure I would miss LAN play.)

So I was a bit surprise/amused/happy to get a note from Blizzard letting me know I had been given access to the closed beta for the upcoming Legacy of the Void expansion for StarCraft II.

Why thanks!

Why thanks!

Blizzard had some details out about this back at BlizzCon last year, but it seems like things are really in motion if they are already sending invites to random opt-ins like me. They want feedback early according to the details.

For this reason, we decided to start the beta sooner than we normally would have in the past, providing ample time for feedback and iteration.

Though I gather from the Beta FAQ that my purchase of a virtual ticket to BlizzCon 2014 put me on the list.

I mentioned that I got the invite to my wife and she said the line, “Jacked up and good to go!” and told me I had to play… and that I had to have the audio run through my speakers so she could hear what the units were saying.  So it had to be done.

I downloaded the beta, though I first tried to do it through the “Download Now” button in the email, which only succeeded in downloading the StarCraft II starter edition.  Not that that was a bad thing.  I got that going and ran through the tutorial mission just to make sure I still knew the basics.  I slaughtered the CPU guided foe with ease following the tutorial instructions along with some vague memories of how to play from back in the day.

After that I went back to the Battle.net launcher and downloaded the Legacy of the Void beta directly and got that up and running.

That was what I wanted to see

That was what I wanted to see

I got in there and looked at what options I had.  They were limited to 1v1 multiplayer games over Battle.net, which was to be expected given the blurb in the invite.

This phase of the Legacy of the Void closed beta test focuses on the multiplayer aspects of the game, including the new cooperative Archon mode, so ramp up your APM and dive into the battle.

So multiplayer it was the option.  How bad could it be, right?

Actually, the more accurate question was, “How bad could I be?”

I played three games in quick succession… and they were quick because I ended up surrendering after being wrecked much earlier than expected.  I am not just bad at StarCraft II at this point, but I am apparently so much worse than the average player in the beta… who are much more likely to be self-selected individuals who are really into StarCraft II as opposed to happy memory dilettantes like myself… that after the third humiliation I closed down the game and went back to Azeroth to work on my second druid (mentioned last week) healing for random Dungeon Finder groups.  At least there when things are going bad I can at least tell why.

Hitting level 90

Hitting level 90!  Another garrison soon

It just isn’t worth my time simply because I do not care enough about StarCraft II to put in the effort to be more than a very small speed-bump on somebody’s road to victory.  Those days are gone.

And the most disappointing bit in the whole thing… the Terran Marine units don’t even say, “Jacked up and good to go!” any more.  I had to check the list of quotes to be sure, and it isn’t there.

But I will always have memories of 1998.

April Fools at Blizzard – 2015

The date is upon us, the usual suspects are out complaining about it or feeling the need to warn people (just in case you’ve never run across the phenomena before I guess), and so we have another in an ongoing series of posts about April Fools and Blizzard.  Previous entries:

This is what I found this morning rummaging through Blizzard’s various sites.

Blizzard-wide

The first entry for April Fools this year is the B’Motes Expression Packs that allow a wide variety of pre-recorded emotes and expressions to be applied to Blizzard games.

BMotesPacksPacks are available for everything including BNet chat.

World of Warcraft

In Azeroth we have T.I.N.D.R. (like Tinder) a matchmaking application to allow your followers to find their perfect match… for adventure.

On the T.I.N.D.R. box mission

On the T.I.N.D.R. box mission

When matched up, your followers can use their S.E.L.F.I.E. to record their results of their date.

And, of course, there is the usual round of patch notes to go with the date.

StarCraft 2

On the StarCraft 2 front, Blizzard has come up with an item to celebrate the Legacy of the Void expansion going into beta, the Spear of Adun.

The Spear of Adun keepsake

The Spear of Adun keepsake

The page describing the Spear of Adun links to the Blizzard store where the item appears to be out of stock… and a bit pricy.

Add it to your wish list

Add it to your wish list

Heroes of the Storm

Heroes of the Storm introduces Big Head Mode for April Fools.

Boom, headshot

Boom, head shot

Wasn’t that an EverQuest II April Fools think like eight years ago?

There is also a Noblegarden skin available, but I am not sure if that is a joke or not.  I’ve seen goofier things in other games that were not a joke.

Hearthstone

As with the Noblegarden skin, Hearthstone has a special April item that may or may not be an April Fools.  Announced yesterday, there is a new card back with a cupcake on it.

Cupcake Card Back

Cupcake Card Back

Whether or not is is real, it seems to be in the spirit of the day all the same.  And there are always those April 1st patch notes.

Elsewhere

Diablo III only had the B’Motes item (and their latest patch notes look real) while the Overwatch site was still in full “some day” mode, as it has been since around BlizzCon.

All in all, an okay array of jokes.  Nothing too over the top, like some of the past entries.  The Blizzard folks must be hard at work, as they did not have time to put together a full fledged browser game like they did back in 2012.

What else is going on in the world on April Fools Day?

MMORPG.com and Massively OP both have columns up this morning covering the wider world of MMOs and their April Fools fun.

Addendum:

Activision Blizzard Making More Money, WoW over 10 Million Subscribers Still

The Activision Blizzard results for the fourth quarter of 2014 were announced yesterday and, to probably nobody’s surprise, the combined companies reported making huge amounts of money.

ActiBlizz450What with Destiny still selling well, the latest Call of Duty installment somewhere out there, a World of Warcraft expansion, and Hearthstone apparently worthy of repeated mentions, the money was pouring in.

Actual footage of Bobby Kotick and Mike Morhaime during the call

Actual footage of Mike Morhaime and Bobby Kotick during the call

You can find summaries of the announcements around the web, or you can go to the Activision investor relations site to see the full financial report and the presentations.

Of course, I am more interested in Blizzard around here than the Call of Duty Activision side of the house.  The Blizzard slide shows about what we would expect.  Best annual revenues ever.  More registered users.  More good stuff coming.

Blizzard slide from the presentation deck

Blizzard slide from the presentation deck

Still, there is a point there that will be seen by some as losing by not winning enough.  Only 10 million subscribers?

I know, it says “over” 10 million, but if it was over, say, 10.5 million, they would have said over 10.5 million.  Past behavior indicates that.

And 10 million was the number they gave back in November after the expansion finally came out.  That only got us up to the Mists of Pandaria peak.  With the history of the game, anything less than 12 million will be failure in the eyes of some.

But at least this chart hasn't changed!

But at least this chart hasn’t changed!  Lich King, Best King!

Of course, that dissatisfaction with not getting back to the peak subscriber number ignores the scale of WoW’s subscriber base.  The jump from 7.4 million subscribers to over 10 million at the launch of Warlords of Draenor… 2.6 million subscribers… how many other popular MMOs would we have to stack up before we hit 2.6 million subscribers?  Not just registered users or those tagging along for free, but people who signed up to pay that $15 a month?  And what about that 10 million number?

The churn of users just coming and going since the expansion launched would probably kill some games.  You can sure as shit bet if EverQuest II had 10 million subscribers… or 7.4 million… or even 2.6 million… Smed would be telling the PlayStation people what to do rather than being sold into bondage.

World of Warcraft remains the outlier that distorts the scale when we talking about MMOs.  Comparing it to other things just doesn’t work, because even down from its peak it is still too big.

Anyway, that is the big news from Blizzard.  All money, all the time.

Oh… and one more thing.  StarCraft II – Legacy of the Void.  The mention of it being the “Final” expansion to the StarCraft II series stands out for me.  Maybe they said that back at BlizzCon and I missed it, but seeing that word “Final” on the financial presentation makes it stand out for me.

So what will the RTS team at Blizzard be doing when they have wrapped that up?

Should we read anything into the fact that the RTS team appears to be playing around with the Warcraft III assets?

A Vaguely Dissatisfying BlizzCon… For Me

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.