Blizzcon 2017 - The Recap
Each year Blizzcon seems to up the ante. I’ve never been, but I’ve followed each one closely and this year’s conference for Blizzard Entertainment seemed like the biggest and baddest yet. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of over-hyped conferences like E3 (has become), but I do really enjoy spaces that allow gaming fans to come together and celebrate games that they love. I think Blizzard is really the developer to beat when it comes to single-company conferences, and I do hope to see other large studios do the same in the future; but just not EA because they would likely require you to buy loot boxes for conference gear with poor RNG or make you pre-order your ticket for access to restrooms, or litter their conference floor with microtransaction booths (burn, much?). Anyway, I am a huge fan of Blizzard’s--have played every game they’ve released since Diablo--and let’s check out what they’ve announced this year. I am mostly going to focus my attention on Overwatch and World of Warcraft, but if you are interested in their announcements regarding Hearthstone and Starcraft check out the links within! I would also encourage you to check out these great pictures from the conference taken by our friends over at Thrift Gaming!
Let’s start with World of Warcraft, arguably the best MMORPG of our time, and Blizzard had two pretty big announcements this year. First, they will be launching their own in-house version of vanilla WoW. Second, they are releasing a new expansion, The Battle for Azeroth, and along with it some pretty interesting changes to the base game.
Let’s tackle vanilla WoW first, what Blizzard is calling World of Warcraft: Classic. You can view the nostalgia here. “Legacy” servers, which are privately operated (separate from Blizzard), are servers that random folks in the community had set up previously to run vanilla WoW, for people who wished to play the game in its original form. Blizzard at one point had sent out some cease and desist letters to the creators of these servers and now it’s clear why--they were creating their own version of the vanilla game. What’s taken Blizzard so long? Well, apparently the base game and development files had been altered so much as the years went on, that it has actually been quite difficult for the game developers to go back and uncover legitimate files from the original game. But it looks like they were able to make some headway with this announcement. Now, there are a lot of questions that remain to be answered, my top one being: are the graphics going to revert back to vanilla too, or are those going to remain in place? I’m also just putting my best educated guess out there, but I think this experiment is going to be a comet--it’s going to burn bright when it first comes out, but it’ll die out soon after. For those of us that played vanilla WoW and yearn for those days; we aren’t just nostalgic for the base game, but we are nostalgic for the experience combined with the base game--the packed Ironforge auction house, the mysteries to uncover for the first time, the new zones to explore which seem endless--without those experiences coupled with the vanilla game, I don’t think WoW Classic is going to be as much of a success as perhaps Blizzard is hoping.
Onto Battle for Azeroth! Wait, isn’t that the same as vanilla WoW? Well….lore wise yeah basically: horde vs. alliance once again. Womp womp, I was really hoping for story-wise something a little bit cooler, like Rise of N’zoth (you can use that name for your next expansion Blizzard). Actually, calling it right now--the Battle for Azeroth is going to be interrupted by N’zoth and you are going to have to join forces with your newly gained allied races to defeat the Old God. Boom, storyline! Now, story-wise aside, a few of the changes coming in Battle for Azeroth are actually pretty cool. Shout out to Techon7 for our discussion the other day on it!
So one of the first changes hitting WoW with BfA are new allied races. Like a true MMO expansion is supposed to do (lookin’ at you, Destiny 2), WoW is offering new races for the players to create a character from. For Horde side these include Highmountain Tauren (think Tauren with elk antlers...literally), Nightborne (elves dependent on the Nightwell); for Alliance side these include the Lightforged (ultra religious Draenei) and the Void Elves (elves corrupted by void magic who should DEFINITELY be on the Horde side). I’m always a fan of more customization, so good on Blizzard for adding some more races to choose from in character creation! Additionally there will be some new regions including Kul Tiras (finally!) and Zandalar, as well as plunder-able islands, which could be a lot of fun. BfA is also refocusing on world PVP, so it’ll be very interesting to see what the development team comes up with. Perhaps the biggest change is incorporating the region leveling system of Legion into zones all across Azeroth. Zones will be scaling according to your level in a set of brackets (0-10, 10-60, 60-80, 80-90), meaning that the PvE enemies that you encounter will scale alongside you. This system has been pretty popular in newer MMOs, and will definitely be an infusion of life into the forgotten zones of expansions past. I think it’s absolutely a step in the right direction, and should really excite old and new players alike. Lastly, check out the cinematic, because it’s dope.
Now, looking over at Overwatch, I was a little let down. I really think this game is floundering with its community (me included) and I was hoping for a much bigger shakeup to come out of Blizzcon. What we did get, instead was a new hero announcement, Moira, a brilliant short about everyone’s favorite shield-bearer, Reinhardt, and a new map announcement “Blizzard World” (I wish you could see how far my eyes rolled on that one). I think if the Overwatch team really wants to keep their game alive moving forward, they’re going to have to roll out all the stops, and I just don’t see it happening yet. My number one take right now to make the game better is to drastically increase the number of heroes offered (think League of Legends or DOTA). Right now it’s just way too easy to counter-pick and the limited number of heroes really makes the game a bit too repetitive, not to mention the lack of any itemization or other systems that would make the game just a bit more interesting and require a bit more strategy.
Well folks, time will tell with some of these changes and additions to World of Warcraft and Overwatch, but I’d definitely say that Blizzcon 2017 was a pretty big success--lots of cool announcements and hopefully some new and exciting things down the road for us Blizzard fans!