Tag Archives: StarCraft

Looking Forward to BlizzCon 2019

BlizzCon is coming and there is nothing you can do to stop it.

Not that you would want to stop it.  I certainly don’t want to stop it.

In fact, I am more than a bit excited to see what it will bring.  It is exactly a month away and I already want to start talking about it.

Last year’s BlizzCon was a bit less than thrilling.  It came a couple of months after a WoW expansion, so while there were some update items to reveal, there was no big Azeroth announcement.  WoW Classic was already known so, while we got to play a demo, the only big news was penning in the ship date to summer.  Hearthstone got a new expansion, OverWatch got a new hero and a cereal, Heroes of the Storm felt lucky just to get mentioned, StarCraft received the tiniest of nods, and if it had not been for the Diablo Immortal brouhaha there wouldn’t have been a headline worthy announcement out of the whole thing.

It wasn’t as dull as some made out, but it was a lot more details than big picture, and big picture is what gets attention.

This year though, this year has some potential.  So it is time to go once again go through what I expect to hear, what I hope I will hear, and maybe a couple of things somewhere in between.

Going down the list of franchises:

World of Warcraft

New expansion announcement.

Yes, there will be all sorts of anniversary related things to talk about, with special panels and goodies and videos and whatever, and rightfully so, but there had better be a new expansion announcement on the list.

If there isn’t a new expansion announced for retail WoW the stock price will crash, there will be unrest in the streets, we won’t be able to trust anybody ever again, and the world will pretty much end.

Okay, maybe it is not that bad, but it would be an unprecedented break in the pattern of the ages not to announce a new WoW expansion here.  It would be very bad to not have one to announce. A new expansion will make fans of WoW retail will feel better and we might get a bit of insight into what Blizz has learned from the summer of slumber in Zandalar and Kul Tiras.

But where do we go from Battle for Azeroth? I know the lore is pretty pliable, but that map of Azeroth doesn’t have a lot of wide open seas left in which to discover yet another continent. So what is it going to be?  Time travel again?  Khadgar leading us through some new portal into another world?  Will it be time for another invasion from an external source (please, no more Burning Legion) that will, once again, push the Horde and Alliance back into cooperation again?

And what will be the hook to get people back and playing?  I don’t think a new race by itself will work.  I think the whole allied races thing represented a draining of all interest in going back to that well any time soon.  How many alts do people need?

So a new class then?  Is there a class niche they haven’t explored yet?  Berserkers?  Technos?  Rangers? Necromancers?

Most things I come up with sort of fit in or between the current classes.  How is a Berserker not a fury Warrior?  How is a Techno not a Dwarf/Gnome Hunter with the engineering profession?  How is a Ranger not just a Hunter without a pet?  How is a Necromancer not just a cross between a Warlock and a Deathknight?

If I had to bet, it would be some sort of magic using class I guess.  While I see the cross over, Necromancers might still have potential.

And will Blizz try something new with levels?  Maybe they have some form of alternate advancement in the works.  Or will this be another ten level expansion?  With the company floating the idea of a level squish, it would be strange for them to simply carry on as before.

While I am not playing retail WoW right now I certainly plan to go back to it at some point, which means I am still quite interested in its future.  BlizzCon is the chance for the company to set a course for our expectations.  I hope they don’t blow it, either by coming up empty or setting expectations that lead to eventual disappointment.

WoW Classic

WoW Classic is the difficult bit for Blizz.  It has succeeded beyond expectations.  I think that is a pretty safe claim when the company had to more than double the server count (see the numbers) AND THEN double the amount of people a server was allowed to hold.  Also, there is that 223% increase in subscriber revenue.  All that has put WoW in the headlines again and may have even pushed up the stock price.

Which means you can’t just say nothing about it.  You can’t just say, “Wasn’t that great?  Aren’t we all having fun?” and move on to the next topic.  There has to be a plan communicated.  It doesn’t have to be deep or detailed, but somebody has to get up there and at least hand wave an idea of how Blizz keeps this party going.  Things I think they might bring up as options.

  • 100% Sure – Phase Plan – This is, to my mind, the bare minimum they can communicate, some idea of when the next five phases of WoW Classic will unlock.
  • 80% Sure – Other Expansions – The logical follow on for WoW Classic is The Burning Crusade Classic.  I expect the minimum they will say is that they are looking into it.  The upper limited of my expectations is a declaration that they will make this happen without any details.
  • 10% Sure – More Classic Servers – I will be interested to see if Blizz “gets” what makes up all of the appeal loaded into WoW Classic.  It is rooted in nostalgia, certainly.  But as SOE learned eventually, this is an evergreen proposition, not a one and done effort.  People want to start on FRESH servers and be in that wave of level one players.If they do get this, there will be a mention of a new round of servers at some future date.  Daybreak has found they can roll out a fresh progression server every other year and it will fill to overflowing.  Blizz could easily make this a filler for non-expansion years for WoW.  Maybe they don’t need 70+ servers, and it would be good if there was some sync between finishing up the phases and rolling out a new generation.
  • .001% Sure – Alternate Reality – SynCaine really brought this one up for me.  With WoW Classic essentially standing as an independent game with its own client separate from retail, Blizzard could realistically create a different way forward for the game with its own exclusive expansions.  If anybody has the resources for such a thing, it is Blizz. On the other hand, this is also very much a coloring outside of the lines move, not a Blizz strong suit, and if they can only get an expansion out every other year for retail, I am not sure they have the talent and other non-cash resources capable of producing something that would not lead to disappointment.

Diablo

Diablo IV or go home.

Seriously, if that is not announced after last year’s tease and follow ups, Blizz might as well give up on the franchise.  They have started calling Diablo III a “classic” title. I guess it is already more than seven years old.  So a new Diablo on PC/consoles seems due.

Also, give me a damn Diablo II remaster already.  I would take a GoG.com version.  I have already proven that when I bought Diablo from GoG.com.  Just give it to me already.

Oh, and we do want to hear what happened with Diablo Immortal, but only after you’ve made us all happy with the wonders of Diablo IV.

Heroes of the Storm

Auto Chess or go home.

HotS is still a thing, still getting some minor updates, and will probably get a special new hero for BlizzCon, but the esports body-blow still has many convinced the game is dead.

But Blizz has a unique opportunity here.  With Dota Underlords and Teamfight Tactics out there having stolen the thunder of the Auto Chess mod, the company could step into the fray with their own version.

However, it needs some special sauce, something tight to set it apart.  And I don’t mean putting making the play grid triangles rather than squares of hexagons.  They need a leap in the concept, because Teamfight Tactics seems to be doing pretty well.

Overwatch

Overwatch 2 or go home.

Okay, I am not sure whether Overwatch 2 is a good plan or not, but reports are revenue has been sagging and you know the Activision side of the house makes damn good money releasing slight variations of the same damn shooter every year.  Somebody might force that issue.

Otherwise, what else have they got?  A new hero?  A new map maybe?  A new cereal?

Hearthstone

More card packs.  Maybe a new play mode.  What else are they going to do besides milk this cow?

But I also don’t “get” Hearthstone in some deep way.  I mean, I understand how to play, I just don’t find it all that interesting.  I put the client on my iPad every six months or so, play a few hands, then wander off.

StarCraft

Yeah, I got nothing here.  I mean, StarCraft II has been out for more than nine years now… is it “classic” at this point too… and the base game has gone free to play, while StarCraft, its now 21 year old predecessor, has gotten a remaster and a DLC skin overlay.  The company is pottering around with tidbits, but nothing that is worth a headline.

What could revive the StarCraft franchise?  I think a third RTS would be pointless.  StarCraft was so well done that StarCraft II had to be, almost by necessity, nearly a direct knock-off of the original.   A new campaign module might interest some.  But something like a first person shooter would collide with Overwatch and my gut says that Blizz will never do another real MMORPG.  So what is left?

Maybe StarCraft is where Blizz goes with the Auto Chess thing?  Rather than just selecting from a random set of heroes you have to commit to one of the factions and only draw from their units?

New Stuff

There needs to be something new.  Like, really new.  As much as I dig Warcraft III or Diablo II remaster ideas, or even the thought of Diablo IV, there might be a need for some fresh blood down in Irvine.

The Blizzard tradition has been to remake a game that the devs are currently playing.  That literally covers the history of the company from its founding forward.  So what have the devs been playing?  Last year Blizz said mobile games were hot with the dev team, so what will they copy?  Pokemon Go?  Clash of Clans?  Honour of Kings?

Waiting

That is what we get to do for a month, wait.  BlizzCon is November 1st.  I am sure we’ll get more hints about what to expect as the month progresses.  The schedule, for example, is always something you can read things into.  Whichever game gets the first presentation after the keynote tends to have the biggest announcement, which will set expectations.

Of course, that can lead to disaster.  Last year that position of honor had “Diablo” written on it, but then they announced Diablo Immortal.  I expect they won’t make that mistake again.

So what is it going to be?  What will BlizzCon bring?  And when will the Virtual Ticket go on sale?

Addendum:  Just before this was slated to go live the Virtual Ticket was announced.  A couple of battle pets, murloc versions of Anduin and Sylvannas, along with cosmetic “Wendigo Woolies” transmog items for retail WoW players.

 

The Virtual Ticket battle pets have been some of my favorites, so even if I wasn’t already on board for the Virtual Ticket I’d be leaning heavily towards it.

I am also happy that replays of panels will be available for longer than previous BlizzCon Virtual Tickets.  I can re-watch things until March 31, 2020.  But more about the Virtual Ticket later.  Now the wait for the event schedule to be posted.  Who will get pride of place after the keynote?

July in Review

The Site

I wasted a perfectly good rant about the new WordPress.com mobile app and its many flaws in last month’s review post, tacking it on to the end of an already sufficient ramble, so this month I’m going to write about search engine traffic.

As I note in every anniversary post, the vast majority of traffic that lands here comes via search engines, and the lions share of that comes from Google.

Google also wishes me a happy birthday, something I find oddly disturbing

Bing, in second place, provides 3% of the search engine traffic and all other search engines combined… Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, Yandex, Baidu, AOL, MyWay… total up to 2%, which leaves Google with 95%.

Basically, when Google doesn’t show me, traffic takes a hit.  When they changed their parameters in early 2013, traffic here was cut in half and has been trending down ever since.  And, for whatever reason, traffic from Google has been way down over the last few months.

Until the Darkpaw Games thing from Daybreak came up and the blackout hit EVE Online null sec.  Then there was a sudden pop in search engine related traffic, which the Google console tells me was drive by the search terms “Darkpaw Games,” “EverQuest 3,” and “Battle Clinic.”  The latter was the old site that used to host a kill board alternative to ZKillboard.   “Battle Clinic” only lasted for a couple of days, but “Darkpaw” and “EverQuest 3” just keep on going.

And, you can see down below in the most popular posts section, that the post about Darkpaw Games led the way.  We’re not back to 2012 levels of traffic… or even 2016 levels of traffic… but it was interesting to see some search terms suddenly take off.

One Year Ago

I built my daughter her first Windows PC.  It was so cute!

Amazon was giving Prime members a free copy of Pillars of Eternity.

The annual Steam Summer Sale came to a close.  I reviewed what I purchased, or almost purchased, as well as some of the stats that Valve provided.

I was on again with my Leuthilspar Tales from TorilMUD., this time writing about the Sylvan Glades zone, which was something of a disappointment.

In Minecraft there was the Aquatic Update.  It wasn’t all smooth sailing and I ended up downloading our world and batch updating it before uploading it again.  And then I was off to find a warm ocean.

I was back in World of Warcraft and finishing up some Legion stuff and getting on with the lead-in for Battle for Azeroth.  I went over some of what Legion did for us, then the 8.0 update hit and I had to get used to new stuff with BFA.

There was also a Kickstarter campaign for Stay Awhile and Listen – Vol. II, about the development of the Diablo series.  Kickstarters for books tend to work out pretty well.

I had a summary of Abyssal Pocket stats that CCP Fozzie presented at EVE Down Under.  We also got an update that removed wagering on duels, killed off the dread “Fozzie Claws,” and fixed some Abyssal deadspace bugs.

I also noted the tenth anniversary of the EVE Blog Pack, a group I have been kicked out of more than once.

Also turning ten was DOTLAN EVE Maps.

Out in Null Sec space, Mordus Angels folded up shop and Circle of Two moved into their space in Fade.  This was enough to rouse the Imperium, previously content to let SIGs and Squads harass the north, to roll up on Fade and drop a Keepstar on the doorstep.  We went immediately after the CO2 Keepstar in DW-T2I, but were thwarted when it turned out we didn’t know how cyno jammers worked.  But we were there for the long haul.

Anyway, we had a distraction down south, where PanFam was going after TEST.  They blew up a TEST Keepstar and TEST responded by just dropping another one.  That one lived.  Meanwhile the PanFam fleet was trapped in bubbles cover where they would login.

PanFam did escape a couple days later.  Also, there was the alliance tournament.  That was all in a summary post.

And then we were killing Keepstars in Aeschee and Kinakka.  No end of destruction in New Eden.

Finally, Blaugust was almost upon us, and it was set to be a combo of Blaugust and the NBI, a festival of blogging.

Five Years Ago

There was a site put up by eBay about game return on investment.  Unsurprisingly, it indicated that used games are a deal in that regard, so you should go buy some on eBay.

There was the passing of yet another Steam Summer Sale.

SOE forgot to pay their domain name registration.  Meanwhile, Landmark was available for a deep discount after the Steam Summer Sale, leading to speculation about its future.

SuperData Research was listing out the Top Subscription MMOs while not defining what they really meant by the term.

Anarchy Online introduced a PLEX-like currency, GRACE.

The community manager for LOTRO was busy telling raiders and PvMP players that they weren’t getting any new content because they added up to less than 10% of the player population.

finished up Pokemon Y on the 3DS.

In my attempt at the loremaster achievement in WoW I ran through Desolace, Feralas, and Thousand Needles one week, Felwood and Un’goro Crater the next.  Then it was Winterspring, Swamp of Sorrows, and the Blasted Lands, the Cape of Stranglethorn, and the final bit of the Eastern Kingdoms.  I was on a roll.

in EVE Online we were commuting to Delve, where maybe there was going to be a war, and chasing Brave Newbies around (then getting pipe bombed) when there wasn’t anything going on.  That was back when we owned Delve.  Fights went on sporadically for a while and many a Rupture was sacrificed simply try a fresh doctrine.  So many Ruptures.  Apocs did better.

Meanwhile the Crius expansion hit New Eden, making industry better… it did get better, right?

In EverQuest, on the Fippy Darkpaw Time Locked Progression server, the vote to unlock the Underfoot expansion failed, making it the second expansion ever to get voted down, the first being Gates of Discord nearly two years before.

With that I was wondering what other MMOs might go for the retro nostalgia server thing.  Not WoW, I was sure of that at the time.

I was also on about housing in MMOs, what has really worked for me and what has fallen flat and why.  This included some projection as to what garrisons might end up being in WoW.

Our epic game of Civilization V saw expansionism and direct conflict with the Aztec empire.

Ten Years Ago

I won a contest.  Granted, all I got was a T-shirt.  But that was probably more than you got.  And it was due to a video game.

Mythic announced a version of Warhammer Online for the Mac.  Not sure that helped anything at all.

I was, as usual, asking silly questions like why does Tetris gets faster.  Okay, it was an analogy, but it was still silly.

Oh, and then there was the horse.  Remember the $10 horse?  I did a poll about it and everything.  Boy, that seems like small potatoes these days.  I mean, that was a cash shop game selling a horse for $10.  Now WoW and EQ2 will sell you mounts that cost much more.

Gary Gannon announced that GAX Online was going to close in August, bringing to an end that experiment in gamer community building.

I asked what people considered cheating in an MMO.  It included another poll.  I was doing polls that July.

I did a parody of Tipa’s Daily Blog Roll feature.  That is some pretty rich stuff in hindsight.

In EVE Online I got another step closer to mining perfection.  I was also fiddling around with a fit for a Dominix.

In World of Warcraft the instance group hit Violet Hold and Gundrak, but couldn’t get the team together for Halls of Stone, so went back and did some Burning Crusade heroics just for kicks.

Then the instance group took a run at Onyxia.  The old school Onyxia.  She’s since been remade.

My daughter somehow got to Dalaran at level 16… without having the Wrath of the Lich King expansion.

And even as we were doing all that, we were starting to mull over what we should do once we were level 80 with no new expansion in sight.  It only took us a year to try another game.  At about that time, my hunter alt hit level 80.

I also dredged up the old Alamo Teechs U 2 Play Druid post from the WoW forums.  Philosophical question:  Would Alamo have posted that if RealID had forced him to use his real name?

And, finally, my daughter was trying to get me to help her make WoW videos to post on YouTube.

Twenty Years Ago

Billy Mitchell got the first perfect score in Pac-Man, though his record has since been expunged due to accusations about cheating.

Forty Years Ago

The Sony Walkman was introduced and portable music has not been the same since.  A pair of classmates of mine had a father went to Japan on business regularly and who brought them each one of the brand new devices back from one of his trips.  Those were the first two I ever saw.

I think I still have a late 80s/early 90s model with dual tape decks and recording capability sitting in a drawer somewhere.  But now my phone does all that and more.

Most Viewed Posts in July

  1. Is Darkpaw Games the New Future of EverQuest?
  2. How Many People Play EVE Online?
  3. Minecraft and the Search for a Warm Ocean
  4. Alamo teechs u 2 play DURID!
  5. EVE Online Summer Season of Skill Points
  6. What Should EverQuest 3 Even Look Like?
  7. Local to be Blacked Out in Null Sec Soon
  8. Rumors of Future Daybreak Projects and the End of EverQuest
  9. Pondering all these Free Skill Points
  10. Null Sec Blackout to be Maintained Indefinitely
  11. Hilmar and the Chaos Era of EVE Online
  12. How do you solve a problem like the Drifters?

Search Terms of the Month

stuck in wow waterfall
[They’re trying to move to agile, but it takes time]

eve online starter pack 250k skill points or one million
[One million]

what does everquest get in god expansion
[ummm?]

eve where to find missions
[See, the UI is fail]

eve online untraceable bot
[you wish]

Game Time from ManicTime

Definitely more titles on the list this month.  Still, when it comes down to it I played EVE Online a lot and then everything else a little bit.

  1. EVE Online – 60.34%
  2. Dota Underlords – 11.99%
  3. Defense Grid – 6.97%
  4. StarCraft – 6.73%
  5. RimWorld – 4.97%
  6. World of Warcraft – 3.75%
  7. Civilization V – 2.35%
  8. Age of Empires 2 – 1.48%
  9. GTA V – 1.43%

Age of Empires 2

We have been talking about AOE2 at the office some of late, which got me to launch the game and see if I could still manage something of a build order.  My ability to focus on multiple things at once has diminished significantly in the last 20 years or so.

Civilization V

I mentioned last month that I got out Civ V largely because the Steam summer sale events rewarded you for playing games that had achievements.  I am not great at Steam achievements, but Civ V is the game where I have earned the most.  It didn’t do me any good though, the Team Corgi still won.

Defense Grid

As with Civ V, I got out Defense Grid largely because of the Steam summer sale event.  However, Defense Grid is still a great tower defense game and, while I have “won” the game, it remains full of achievements I have yet to unlock and modes I have yet to beat.

Dota Underlords

On Steam but not related to the Steam sale, I ended up trying one of the titles in the new genre of the month, auto battlers.  It is in early access, so it is free and changing and in need to tightening down.  But it remains oddly compelling.  Also, once I was losing badly, so walked away to answer the door to come back and find I had won the four rounds unattended. It is strange like that.

EVE Online

What didn’t happen in EVE Online this month?  Triglavians, Drifters, the null sec blackout, skill point handouts, crazy talk from the CEO, and a proposed tax increase.  The Chaos Era is upon us.  I spent a lot of time writing about EVE Online, though I did manage to log in for long enough to go on a few ops as well.

Grand Theft Auto V

This was my one Steam Summer Sale purchase.  After starting off in the tutorial for a bit, I decided that this was the sort of game where I needed a chunk of time and the right mood in order to get into it.  Sometimes that works out.  But then there is the Valkyria Chronicles, about which I said the same thing.  Steam says I played 9 minutes of that back in 2015.  Haven’t hit the right mood yet I guess.

Pokemon Go

Had a good month here, with my wife and I getting to run around to find Team Rocket Pokestops.  I have a post about that brewing.  I also added a bunch of friends by posting my friend code on Twitter in order to satisfy one of the special task requirements.  Now I keep running out of gifts to give them.

Level: 36 (+0 but so very close to 37)
Pokedex status: 432 (+7) caught, 457 (+4) seen
Pokemon I want: Luxray, which was my daughter’s favorite Pokemon back in the day
Current buddy: Bronzor

RimWorld

RimWorld remains my go-to quiet time want to play and listen to a podcast or audio book game.  It is also a game you play over the long term and one that is pretty easy to pick up after you have been away for a bit.  I still have a post brewing about it, and with a need to post every day next month I will probably get to that in August.

StarCraft

I bought the StarCraft Cartooned graphics pack.  I didn’t need it.  I don’t play that much StarCraft.  But it was very cute and the Carbots team gets some of the money.  That is about the only financial support they’re going to get from me, but at least they got that.  And I did end up playing through the campaign some again, so I got some use out of it.

World of Warcraft

A slow month for me in WoW as the play percentage above shows.  We got the Rise of Azshara update and I pretty much fell off the horse when it came to Azeroth.  I think that was mostly made up of me doing Darkmoon Faire stuff.  But maybe it was time for a breather before WoW Classic.

Coming Up

August seems to be shaping up as a busy time.

First, there is Blaugust.  I know Bel’s calendar say that this whole week is “Prep Week,” and that some people have posted about it already, but I don’t start in on Blaugust until it is actually August.  You will get my contribution towards prep week tomorrow.

The Chaos Era looks to carry on in EVE Online.  We will see if Hilmar’s forecast of weekly disruptions or CCP Falcon’s desire for a dystopian hellscape of an internet spaceship game comes to pass.  Meanwhile the null sec blackout and the free skill point dispensing continues unabated.

SynCaine and my daughter’s boyfriend have both suggested I try Riot’s Teamfight Tactics as an alternative to Dota Underlords.  Both have said TFT is better, simpler, shorter, or whatever.  However, both of them have played a lot of League of Legends, from whence the TFT units come, so that might be swaying them.  Still, I may give it a try.

But the biggest thing of all coming up in August is WoW Classic.  I expect it to be crazy crowded with long queues and the usual launch circus.  Once that hits it will likely overshadow most other topics for at least a week.

StarCraft Cartooned

Blizzard is back with something new for StarCraft… or at least the remastered version of StarCraft that they released almost two years back.

StarCraft Cartooned

Blizzard worked with the team from Carbot Animations, the YouTube group that has been doing parodies of Blizzard games for some time now (including that great Diablo parody I mentioned earlier in the year) to create what is essentially a re-skin of the game in the Carbot style.

Available for $10 from the Blizzard Store, it changes everything in the game from classic to cartoon in style.

This seemed silly enough that I spent the $10 just to see how far they went with it.

Even the splash screen got an update, so this:

Splash Screen from the Remastered version

becomes this:

StarCraft Cartooned splash screen

They even have a promotional video that includes a modified version of the Terran cinematic:

Of course, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to enable the Cartooned skin.  There is an option in the main screen for “Collections,” that includes an option to select which skin you want to use.

Select the Cartooned skin

Once I got that set, everything was cartooned.  So I played a couple of games just to see it in action.

Checking out the Zerg

As with the 2017 remaster of StarCraft, the cartoon skin does not change the game.  The new skin still uses the sounds from the remaster, something fully in keeping with Carbot’s style, which favors juxtaposing their cute style with the game sound track.

Terrans Win

Was it worth the $10?  Maybe not.  I do not play StarCraft often enough to really appreciate it.  But it kept me amused for a couple of hours, and the Carbots team gets a cut of the take, and I do watch their stuff quite often. (Their StarCrafts series is in season 7.)

I am sure there is a Starbucks barrista out there angry at me because that $10 could have been used to buy a venti soy iced caramel macchiato with enough left over for a generous tip.  I’m sorry, but I’m not buying your crappy hipster coffee.  Also, I don’t drink coffee.

Looking Towards BlizzCon 2018

BlizzCon starts tomorrow, so it is about time I got around this post.  I have ordered the Virtual Ticket, so I will be watching all of what is coming.  However, the question is, what will we actually see?

BlizzCon 2018

  • World of Warcraft

There will no doubt be some words about Battle for Azeroth, how everything is fine and wonderful and even if it isn’t Blizz will be making things better shortly.  There might even be a mention of some new content and plans and maybe a reference to how the game will be fifteen years old next year.

But the main thing will be WoW Classic.  Once I ordered the Virtual Ticket I figured out how to download the demo so I could play it once it goes live.  It doesn’t get its own entry on the Blizzard launcher… not yet at least.  Rather, it is one of the options under “Region/Account.”

The option to select

There are not any Patch Notes, the link there points to to WoW 8.0.1 patch notes.

Once you have selected it, you can click the “Install” button and off you go.

The download

The download itself is… substantial.  It weighs in at 11.5GB, so I suspect we are getting more than just The Barrens and Westfall as part of the package.

Given that I said last year that this BlizzCon would be all about WoW Classic, at least on the WoW front, I suspect that will be the case.  I don’t know what else they would go on about.

The play time people will be allowed for WoW Classic, even for the home download, is reported to be capped or otherwise limited, which I am sure will bring out some rage.  And reports indicate that the experience will be very much in the classic vein.

  • Diablo Franchise

There has been considerable buzz around the Diablo franchise over the last few months, with speculation that we might get a Diablo IV announcement.  And, looking at the BlizzCon schedule, the first item on the main stage is Diablo: What’s Next presentation.  That primacy of place usual goes to the franchise with the big reveal.

On the other hand, Blizz has been dumping cold water on rumors, warning people not to expect too much.  So who knows.

I would still like to hear something about Diablo II remastered, something they mentioned ages ago.  Other than that, and taking Diablo IV off the table, I don’t know what else they would have to present.  I mean, Diablo III on the Switch is nice and all, but it is old news by now, even if it officially launches tomorrow.

  • Overwatch

A new hero seems to be in the works.  A new map or a new play mode would be interesting, but as with the Diablo rumors, Blizz has been trying to set expectations low.  Since I don’t play Overwatch, I am not sure what else they might announced.  New cosmetics maybe?

  • Hearthstone

Hearthstone seemed to do pretty well as a franchise over the last year.  But with a collectible card game the path forward is always clear; new decks and new play modes.  Would anybody bet against one or both being announced?

  • Heroes of the Storm

It is getting a “What’s Next” presentation on the main stage, so something is up.  I suspect we will hear more about how they are going to make it better and/or more competitive with its rivals… though, it main rival, League of Legends, has been down so far in 2018, so maybe the MOBA thing is fading.

Also, new heroes and new cosmetics I am sure.

  • StarCraft

What do you do when your franchise doesn’t get a “What’s Next” panel until mid-way through day two?  I suspect that means no big announcements.

StarCraft and StarCraft II have their own room and channel for the esports league competition, so the franchise remains a staple there.  I expect that the most likely news will be some sort of adventure pack for SCII.

  • Others

Along with the StarCraft and Diablo II rematsers, there was also talk of a Warcraft III rematser as well.  Maybe we might hear something about that?  StarCraft made it and is on the launcher, so the trail has been blazed.

And then, of course, maybe Blizzard could announce something new.  They have been hiring for new projects and they are good at announcing and keeping momentum going through until launch.  But I don’t see any large, unaccounted for open slots on the schedule.  Maybe that “Inside Blizzard” presentation is just a decoy?

Anyway, that is my somewhat mild forecast for BlizzCon.  Blizz could still shake things up with a surprise or two, but unless there really is a Diablo IV announcement I think WoW Classic will be the big item for the event.

StarCraft Resurgent

The remastered version of the original StarCraft/StarCraft: Brood Wars went live last week.  For $14.95 you can have an updated version of the original 1998 title.

Splash Screen Remastered as Well

I picked up a copy just to see what a Blizzard remaster felt like.

This is a true remaster, in the same sense that something like Dark Side of the Moon was remastered.  There is nothing new to be found in the game, everything that ever was there is still there, from the slow AI to menus that you have to click and hold on in order to select from.  It plays exactly the same and you have as much of a view of the world on your screen, even if it now displays in 1600×1200 detail [for me, your resolution may vary] versus the 640×480 limit of the original.  Everything just looks and sounds much better.  We went from this:

Build order? What is build order?

To something more like this:

Still screwing up my build order at the opposite end of the same map

Graphics were updated, some colors changed, but Blizzard did not mess with game play.  It is, so far as I can tell after a couple of quick run, completely true to the individual and all of your favorite maps still work, even the one where you have all those minerals so you can turtle up and never bother expanding.  So the remaster is just that, in probably the purest sense of the word.

What is perhaps more interesting to me is that StarCraft also suddenly has a spot on the Blizzard launcher.  Older Blizzard games that they still sell… Warcraft III, Diablo II, and, until last week, StarCraft… have been stand-alone affairs, as they were before Blizzard had a unified launcher/sales platform.

Now however, there is StarCraft on the launcher, right down the list from its successor StarCraft II.  What does this mean?

Also here, Activision

It could be simple enough.  It might be that Blizzard now considers StarCraft, in its remastered format, to be worth promoting again.  They have invested in it, so they no doubt want to sell some copies since it now looks more like a title from this century.

But it is hard not to at least consider this a bit of a rebuke to StarCraft II.

StarCraft II occupies an uneasy position.  Nobody wants to be the sequel to one of the best selling games ever.  But even though StarCraft II has sold well enough to be considered a success on its own, moving 6 million copies, that still puts it just over half way to the 11 million copies the original sold.

StarCraft II suffered a bit from Blizzard’s conservatism in that they wanted to make a sequel to StarCraft that was different enough to sell, but not so different that it wasn’t StarCraft.  So it changes things up a bit, has a few new features, and looks better than the original, but when you play it you still know it is StarCraft.  But original StarCraft wasn’t that bad, so why make the move unless you really want another online-only title from Blizzard.

And, of course, StarCraft II never became the cultural phenomenon in South Korea that the original did.  Instead, when it comes to esports StarCraft II has to live in the shadows of both the fame of its predecessor and the new wave of MOBAs, such as League of Legends, which are the darlings of esports now.

So part of me wonders if this is a half-hearted attempt by Blizzard to turn the clock back and get the original StarCraft back in front of people so as to reclaim some of its past glory and a bit more of the esports spotlight.

Anyway, I do hope we will see the remastered versions of Diablo II and Warcraft III that Blizzard brought up back in 2015 along with StarCraft.

StarCraft Goes Free to Play

And, as usual, the term “free to play” has certain restrictions.

StaCraft II is not free and neither will the upcoming 4K remaster of StarCraft, which Blizzard confirmed a while back, be free.

Coming some time this summer we’re told

But the original StarCraft, along with the essential StarCraft: Brood War expansion, those are now available to play without giving Blizzard any money at all.  You too can play the 19 year old classic game that pretty much became the national sport of South Korea and which pretty much made esports a thing in all of its 1998 technical glory.

Build order? What is a build order?

That screen shot is a full size grab of the actual resolution supported by the game; 640×480. In 2017 the full StarCraft screen fits in a window within a window on your monitor.

Yes, the game will scale up to your monitor, but even back in 1998 I had a 19″ multi-sync CRT monitor that supported double that resolution and remained crisp and readable (at least to my 1998 eyes), so jumping to the smaller resolution made everything… big.  Likewise, playing it on my now twelve year old 20″ LCD monitor, which supports 1600×1200 as its native resolution, makes everything seem very big as the game scales up to 2.5x to fill the screen.

And I have an archaic old monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio.  I am not sure what happens if you try it at the now more common 16:9 ratio.

But at least it was fast.  It is all sprites, with no 3D rendering required, and doesn’t need to move that many pixels around, which is one of the reasons it became an after hours game of choice at the office back when most of us still had 200MHz Pentium Pro processor based machines with basic Matrox or S3 graphics cards.  The game ran like a champ with those specs, even with a mass of units on screen.

Blizzard even threw in a few fixes and updates according to the 1.1.8 patch notes.  Links to download the game are in the patch notes as well.

I don’t really need to download the game as I have the CDs sitting around somewhere… probably two sets… but it is likely easier.  The installer is tiny.

In the mean time, Blizzard has been showing off what the art for the upcoming 4K remastered version… which, again, you will have to buy separately… will look like.  It is sort of like everything is coming into focus.  I am still waiting to see what the price will be for the remastered version and whether or not it will be accepted by the still thriving StarCraft community and whether or not having the classic units and game play in high definition… along with LAN support… will scavenge players from StarCraft II.

Of course, some minor irony clings to this remaster effort.  While the World of Warcraft team says they can’t do a classic server and that it would be bad and that nobody would want one anyway, other parts of Blizzard are actively mining the power of nostalgia.

StarCraft Remastered Announced

I was hoping to hear something about this at BlizzCon back in November, but everything takes longer than you think it will, and at Blizzard you have to dial that up by another half again.  So while the word first leaked almost a year and a half ago, Blizzard has finally announced the remastered version of StarCraft.

About damn time indeed

The StarCraft site has the current details.  Sort of…  And there is a trailer.

The key bullet points for the remaster are:

  • Remastered Graphics
  • Revised Dialogue and Audio
  • Blizzard Friends and Matchmaking
  • Classic StarCraft Gameplay

The graphics will be 4K HD, which is quite a step up from the 640×480 the game has run on for the last 19 years.  The whole thing will still be 2D perspective, it will just finally look good on your widescreen monitor.

The revised dialog and audio… well, I guess if you are in there and changing stuff, higher quality audio might be something you want to change, but I worry a bit about that one.  A lot of StarCraft to me is the way it sounds.  If the marines don’t say, “Jacked up and good to go!” it might be an issue for me.

Blizzard “friends” and matchmaking are fine as far as it goes.  But the important/traditional aspect of the game, the LAN connection, remains which seems to indicate that it won’t be converted into another Blizzard game that requires and internet connection in order to play.  For a stretch back in the day StarCraft was our after hours game at the office thanks to LAN play.

And then there is “classic” StarCraft game play.  This is, after all, the game that was an esport before people were talking about esports, the game that pretty much became the national video game of South Korea.  So while remastering is good, I do wonder how it will impact game play with more data on screen and the whole “zoom out” view.  Part of the challenge of StarCraft was dealing with limited view of the terrain that you were given.  If you didn’t have scouts out and your eyes on the mini-map, your foe could surprise you.

The target date for the release of StarCraft Remastered is this summer.

As part of this, the original standard definition version of the game is getting an update and will be free, which certainly implies that the remastered version will cost you something.  I wonder what a price tag will do to enthusiasm for the project.  Of course, I was happy enough to shell out for Age of Empires II: Age of Kings when the HD remaster of that came out, so maybe that won’t be a barrier.

Of course, the other question that springs to mind is what does this mean for StarCraft II?  I haven’t heard anything bad about the successor title aside from the gripe that, in an effort to not screw up a good thing, Blizzard did not stray very far from the original, so that it did not stand out on its own.  But at least it had up-to-date graphics and supported modern screen resolutions.

What happens to StarCraft II now that the original is coming back in a remastered format that should “fix” the key barriers to playing it?

And, finally, I wonder where things stand on the other two remaster projects, Warcraft III and Diablo II?  The trio being remastered represent the greats of the pre-World of Warcraft era for Blizzard.  What happens when they return fit to be played on modern machines?