Tag Archives: StarCraft II

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.


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.


  • 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


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


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…


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


  • 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 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.


  • Wooo, Legacy of the Void!


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


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.


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


  • 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.)


  • Reasons for people to spend money


  • Non-dull play mode


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?


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


  • 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.


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.


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.


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.


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:

  • 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.


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.


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.


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

Look, a new thing!

Look, a new thing!

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

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

They run Earth, right?

They run Earth, right?

Still, reductio ad valvium or some such.

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

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

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

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

Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Will BlizzCon 2014 Bring?

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


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

Blizzard Q3 2014 Slide

Blizzard Q3 2014 Slide

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

SuperData 2014 YTD Numbers

SuperData 2014 YTD Numbers

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

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

World of Warcraft

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

A decade of this

A decade of this

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Heroes of the Storm

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

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

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


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

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

Arthas and Jaina and dead murlocs

Arthas and Jaina before WoW

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


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

What do you think Blizzard will announce at BlizzCon?

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


Looking to the Steam Summer Sale for the Next Game

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

Chuck Hestonia nuked and open

Remember Chuck Hestonia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Total War: Rome II


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

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

Company of Heroes 2


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

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

Driver: San Francisco


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

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

Boarderlands 2


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

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

Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator


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

Possible alternatives: Urmm… are there any?

Ticket to Ride


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

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

StarCraft II


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

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

Total Annihilation

Total Annihilation

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

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

Summing Up

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

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