Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for BlizzCon 2017

Tomorrowday, BlizzCon will be upon us, and this year we’re expecting a full reveal of the new expansion for World of Warcraft, still the most lucrative MMORPG in the world. It’s always a fun angle for our team to cover WoW, since to us, it’s just another MMO among hundreds, albeit an outsized one. Indeed, we have writers who strongly dislike everything about it and consider it directly or indirectly responsible many of the genre’s woes. Even so, there’s no denying that whatever WoW does next is a big deal for the MMO genre, even if you’re not a fan.

For this edition of Massively Overthinking – a bit of a special one for the site, as today marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of Massively-that-was – I’ve asked the staff to outline their hopes and fears for BlizzCon, for WoW and the studio’s other games, and especially what they want to see in the expansion itself!

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): As usual, I’m guessing World of Warcraft will get news of another expansion that will largely feature “new” mechanics those of us who have gone beyond mainstream MMOs (and sometimes even mainstream games) have played with for years, just not combined with each other. Lore will be sacrificed to make it “fun,” but it’s OK because the other Blizz IPs will see some promotion for it that might actually be really cool. I can’t think of anything I’d like to see in particular because, sadly, at this point, I really don’t think anything could bring me back, but I do hope there’s some actual instanced housing coming down the line, at least for guilds, but Elder Scrolls Online really set the bar high in my opinion.

If we’re lucky, we’ll see more PvE modes in Overwatch that take better advantage of the out of game lore, and if we’ve been really good this year, there may be an announcement of an Overwatch movie. Pixar will sweat at the thought of losing their more gamer oriented staff members.

Hearthstone will get new stuff that sounds fun but once again makes older cards feel more useless. Heroes of the Storm will get more Overwatch characters and possibly even a Hearthstone hero: the card! Starcraft 2 and Diablo III will get cross IP promotions and… I don’t know, an expansion that involves an anti-hero?

Biggest fear: Activision forces that patented whale generated onto Blizz.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): Blizzard used to lose me and win me back every other expansion. Wrath and Pandaria stole my heart. By rights, Legion ought to have done the same after the disappointment that was Draenor, but it didn’t. I’d finally truly moved on, such that Legion was the first WoW expansion I didn’t buy at all in all the many years I’ve played the game. If the rumors are true, and I hope they are, the new expansion might do it. I say “might” because while I love the rumored theme and think there is an ocean’s-depth of mechanical potential to it to be found in the MMORPG genre (:D), what turns me off is usually Blizzard’s bumbling and pandering and failure to learn from the genre’s past mistakes. The good parts are always great. We always have that drama and hoopla to look forward to and the fun of seeing what other studios will borrow. But the test for me is under the hood of the studio, in the cracks between the big presentation slides. So we’ll see.

I know we aren’t getting any Diablo news, though I wish we were since the franchise is one of my favorites, and I’ll always hold out for D4. Blizzard has fumbled on Diablo over and over, catastrophically. My fear is that the studio will never come back to it and will forget to even mention it, as it forgot a few years ago.

For my husband’s sake, I would have hoped for Overwatch goodies, though it seems the schedule is light on those.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Ah, BlizzCon, the time of the year when a certain populous group of gamers acts like this is the most important event in the world and like Blizzard’s many examples of mismanagement don’t count, while another group acts like Blizzard ruined everything ever forever and they can’t let you know loudly enough. For those of us watching with a bit of a smirk, it’s certainly a spectacle, filled with some things that wind up being pretty darn cool and others that make us want to flip a table over the company’s ceaseless rush to turn everything into an e-sport.

Note: I reserve the right to change my mind about this if they somehow make roleplaying into an e-sport, because I will character arc you right into the ground.

Let’s start from the bottom. Diablo III needs to be sent upstate to a nice farm family, and no, I’m not just being sarcastic; the company needs to just say “we’re not really doing much more with the title” so people stop hoping. The back-and-forth of whether or not D3 is a live and updated game or just a finished game that gets limited-time events deserves to be put to bed. I’d also love it if we could get the console interface on PC.

StarCraft 2 really, really needs to get some more single-player missions. The ironic part is that people were tired as heck of the game’s writing by the end of the main expansion, but the Nova add-on missions were actually better plotted and written than the entire sequel trilogy. Either that, or the game also ought to head to the nice farm family along with Diablo.

Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone… eh, I don’t care. My predictions are worthless because I don’t like what the games are trying to be, and outside of “more heroes/maps” and “more cards” I don’t have any insight to details. They do what they want to do.
Overwatch is in a weird space. On the one hand, the title is indisputably popular, people love the characters, and so forth. On the other hand, the game’s storytelling is nonexistent and the out-of-game storytelling has moved forward about half an inch since the game’s launch a year ago. Someone was expressing hope for a single-player/PvE expansion, which is honestly what it would take for me to have any interest in the game beyond the surrounding culture. The whole Overwatch League thing has also been really struggling to materialize, which doesn’t do the title any perceptual favor.

All that having been said? There’s also the question of whether or not any of this would help the title itself. I think it would make for a better overall game, but it’s certainly not dropping off in interest aggressively. So Blizzard can really get away with a new hero and then just phone it in, and the fact is that it would still float on all right. I’m reluctant to conflate “this is what the game should do” with “this is what I want the game to do.”

Last but certainly not least? World of Warcraft. A title I’m sure I’ll be talking about a lot this weekend anyway, and one where I’ve already talked about both realistic speculation and my entirely tongue-in-cheek me-pleasing expansion. But in all reality, I think that a lot of what we see this weekend is going to depend on what Blizzard sees as its successes and failures over the past year.

First of all, I expect another promise of testing by the end of the year, although I’d hope the developers avoid the “beta” label this time around. (It kind of bit back last year.) I also 100% expect that we’ll see another ten-level bump and either new class or new race options. (Both? Possible, but less certain.) And I think it’s inevitable that we’ll see new continents, even if we do get some old-world revamps going on.

Beyond that point, there are a lot of systems that have been roundly and repeatedly criticized (with good cause) that may or may not be marked as successes. Will we see more Legendaries? It depends on whether or not Blizzard sees the many complaints as a sign that the system needs to be changed. I am honestly not entirely hopeful about this, because the past few years have proven that the team seems to feel that “more opportunities at random chance” is better than “less random chance,” which probably means that some of the most disappointing aspects of Legion will be carried forward.

That also, however, gives hope for the better parts of Legion to carry forward as well – the World Quests, the level scaling, the strong overall storytelling, and so forth. My biggest hope, honestly, is that the developers look at Legion and address the troubles of randomness and inconsistency while keeping a lot of the rest intact. I can tell a convincing story where they don’t, but on a whole Legion winds up ranking pretty highly among WoW’s expansions. Fixing the stuff that doesn’t work would hopefully make something even better.

And if we actually get proper housing? I will scream endlessly. (I don’t actually expect it.)

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Like many, I’m breathless with anticipation over hearing about the next World of Warcraft expansion. I’ve been enjoying revisiting WoW as of late, and I know that an expansion announcement could go a long way to cementing my return — or prompting me away for a long time. Apart from the rumors we’ve heard, my greatest hopes for the xpack is that we’ll see Blizzard do something surprising and enjoyable. Customizable sailing ships (floating housing?) would be amazing, but really anything that would prove to be a huge “hook” is what I’m waiting to hear. I don’t think a new class is in the cards and I don’t care too much about subraces, but giving players a fun new way to grow their character post-artifact weapons will be essential to making this expansion compelling.

Apart from that, I’m not interested in all at the rest of Blizzard’s library, so they can announce whatever they like and I’ll keep my blinders on for the developers’ sole MMO.

Your turn!

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35 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: Hopes and fears for BlizzCon 2017"

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xhieron
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xhieron

I genuinely think there might be something in the ToV/WotMurlocs announcement that wows the audience. I suspect it will be the subraces reveal, but I’d be willing to settle for housing even though that’s not something I’m personally devoted to. What I’d really like to see is a worldwide coastal revamp and update to the water tech. Say what you will about Landmark, but that water … That said, remembering WOW’s banner for runs-on-a-potato-powered-toaster, I appreciate that that’s not a realistic hope.

I think the followers game has run its course. They’ll do something different to keep people using the app on their devices, but housing or no housing, I doubt it will involve cloistering people off again. I’d look for the boat mini-game to be guild-centric, or maybe we’ll have floating hubs where the non-combat tinkering happens.

In other news:

Diablo is dead and stays dead. The fifteen of us that still play it every other season will etch another mark in the wall and cast lots to see which of us gets sacrificed this year for suggesting a D4 announcement last year. Similar rites for SC2, but I think they’ve taken their otherworldly dealings behind closed doors.

Hearthstone and Overwatch get new things to monetize while simultaneously regressing the viability of prior content.

So in short, good time to be a WOW player, mediocre time for anything else.

Oh yeah, HOTS is a game. Hanzo and Alex, I guess. Keeps the lights on, sorta. You excited? Right.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Will you have MOP stuff on Blizzcon this year giving live reporting? Last year coverage was pretty good.

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Archebius

“I reserve the right to change my mind about this if they somehow make roleplaying into an e-sport, because I will character arc you right into the ground.”

Now I’m imaging Eminem in a rap fight about his character’s tortured past.

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FreecczLaw

HotS will continue to add OW heroes into the game with a Hanzo announcement. Current playerbase will cry and potential new players will cheer. Let us just hope they also add something good to the game outside of new heroes.

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Carebear

Someone once described wow after wotlk and said: “when you are waiting a joke to end, but it lasts forever”.

I do play wow, i do buy every new expansion and play for some months but thats because of boredom mostly not because of excitement.

At this point i really doubt there can be a fix that blizzard would be brave to apply…

There will be a new expansion, with new features that will end up the same. Dailies (world quests), dailies, dailies and raid modes.

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Serrenity

I was really disappointed in the expansions — until Legion. For me, the level scaling throughout the new zones really helped add to my excitement. I really hate the feeling that they have this huge, wonderful world out there — that it’s utterly devoid of players because there’s no reason to go anywhere but the new zones at max level. At least they smoothed out that top bit a little bit.

This is the first WoW expansion I’ve been legitimately excited for in a long time, because I feel like they maybe, just maybe, might do something really cool.

maybe.

(probably not. They seem to always find some way to bork it)

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Sally Bowls

Earnings call:

Scott D. Krasik – The Buckingham Research Group, Inc.

Hey, everyone. Thanks for taking my question. Great quarter. I’m not sure who’s more excited for the new Blizzard content, gamers or investors. But for those who have not gone to BlizzCon, is there a way for you to tease any of the upcoming announcements? Thanks.

Michael Morhaime – Activision Blizzard, Inc.

Well, first, we’re going to have to get you to BlizzCon one of these days, but it’s just an amazing community event. And getting to see the passion of our players and the amazing skill of the pro-players in-person is pretty incredible. But even if you’re not there in person, you can still watch the opening ceremonies for free at BlizzCon.com. That starts at 11:00 A.M. Pacific tomorrow. And also you can access all the esports content across all of our games for free, including the championships for the Overwatch World Cup and Heroes of the Storm, StarCraft 2, World of Warcraft Arena, esports tournaments, as well as the Hearthstone invitational.

Also, if you would like to access all BlizzCon offers, which includes the (42:26) channels and community contests and other events like the Muse concert, you can also buy the virtual ticket for $39.99. So got a little plug in there. But in terms of the latest news and everything, we have a number of different announcements that we will be making at the show, but you’re going to have to wait until tomorrow to hear about that. So thank you very much for the question.

Andrew Edward Crum – Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., Inc.

Okay. Thanks. Good afternoon, everyone. Can you discuss in a little more detail recent performance and trends you’re seeing across World of Warcraft and Hearthstone? And how you’re thinking about the pace of investments for these franchises going forward? Thanks.

Michael Morhaime – Activision Blizzard, Inc.

Hi. This is Mike. Thanks for the question. So we continue to be very happy with both of those – with the strength of both of those franchises.

And I’d tell you on the World of Warcraft side, we are investing more than ever. The team has been hard at work delivering on our commitment to the community to deliver more content, more consistently between expansions, that’s been going really well. Since Legion was launched in August of last year, we had – we’ve added multiple content updates and the updates have been really well received by the community. We’ve seen engagement up versus last year, when you look at time spent per player and also frequency of play.

On the Hearthstone side, Hearthstone’s continuing to do really well. Engagement has been really strong throughout the year driven by our successful content launches and our innovative event specifically, with the last expansion, Knights of the Frozen Throne. As you heard, it’s had a franchise record for expansion sales and also drove strong engagement with time spent, up double-digit percentage year-over-year and MAUs were also up year-over-year as well.

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TomTurtle

Happy 10th to Massively-that-was. I vaguely remember the look of the site back when I first saw it. Thinking about it now, it sure was rough in comparison to its revamp and now what MOP looks like.

I’m sure Blizzard will find some way to keep in grinds and/or RNG in WoW. That kind of stuff gets a pass as content in MMOs more often than not. As for actual content, if they do an open seas expansion, I hope to see some beautiful locales, including lovely tropical waters. I could see boat mechanics using the pre-existing vehicle system, which wouldn’t be that interesting, but I suspect that’s all they could hope to work with at this point.

Also, I hope there’s more to the feature list than subraces. I don’t want to see a phoned-in, by the numbers expansion. I’m very curious how Blizzard will handle it considering how much they scrounged up to keep people’s interests with Legion. To me, Legion’s reveal felt like an apology yet also a desperate dump of oft-requested storylines in order to spark people’s interest. Like, before that Blizzard was holding back in order to really stretch things out the best they could. I’d love to see them keep up that momentum.

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Hirku

No hopes or fears, just glad to be around and looking forward to any news.

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Utakata

WarCraft 4 (Also known as WoW2)
Diablo IV Online
World of Overwatch
StarCraft Online

…all fully realized MMO’s, with more PvE than one can shake a pigtail at. With all the tech that can take you there and the gameplay that would put other MMO’s to shame. And all the wishful thinking as far as this Gnome can see standing on top of the tallest edifice available.

Or tl,dr: A snowball chance in Hell. /sigh

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starbuck1771

What no hope for more pink pigtails across the board?

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Utakata

…that usually goes without saying! <3

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Red Galaxie

This. All of this.

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tony quinn

Boring combat system, the tab target just don’t get it any more, I just cant go back to that experience ever again. Just imagine this game on an updated platform with an Wildstar like combat system, I would have never left the game with that being said I never understood why they didn’t take this game to the next level.

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thirtymil

I think tab-target systems have their place, usually at the more relaxed end of the genre, which is why Pandaria’s one-shot-kill ground-dodge rare mobs confused the hell out of me, because I thought I was playing a tab-target game where they didn’t pull that kind of stunt on you.

At the other end there’s action-combat systems, but I don’t think Wildstar’s is a good example. Eight buttons is too many for action combat in my opinion (not to mention Wildstar has cooldowns as well which is a tab-target hangover and doesn’t really belong in action combat), and without a block you’re left with just dodge. ESO’s is better but really, if MMOs want to go in that direction they’re better off copying one of the Batman Arkham games.

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tony quinn

Tab target outdated period, it might have had a place once upon a time but no more, what is the use of block when you can dodge and continue fighting, and I almost sure there is a block in that combat system. I was just using Wildstar as an example really, its sad that mmos haven’t progressed in combat systems really. Eso console game even on pc and there combat system is rather boring.

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Oleg Chebeneev

Did you just trashtalk WoW that has the best target combat and TERA that has the best nontarget combat? Dude, you have 0 understanding of what makes a good combat system and should be ashamed of yourself

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tony quinn

Again opinions are like heads everyone has one but its okay I am not ashamed of anything, tab target for five year olds that is why its the best really??? Played WOW for ten years its old outdated and just like Apple overrated but to those who still like it more power to ya. If we are gonna talk about best tab target FFXIV combat system is way better than WOW period.

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Oleg Chebeneev

“FFXIV combat system is way better than WOW period.”

Ahahahhaha. I love good comedy, thank you.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Strongly disagree, there is no harm in having options and variety, people who like it will play the game, those who don’t have other games.

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thirtymil

Most games that employ a block allow you to run a counter attack off the back of it. Also, thematically for some MMO settings, block makes more sense than dodge.

Not really sure what you mean by ‘console game’ in this case, as most of the best action combat games are on consoles.

Tab targeting certainly still does have a place – you may not like it, but then I’m not a big fan of isometric party-based RPGs with turn-based combat but there’s been a fair few successful ones of those recently.

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Vunak

ESO isn’t action combat. Its soft targeting. BDO and TERA are better examples of actual action combat

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thirtymil

I guess I don’t understand the distinction. The Batman Arkham series and the Shadow of Mordor/War games are all action combat but have soft targeting, so what makes TERA action combat (where as Tony points out, you get locked in place for casting) and ESO not?

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Kickstarter Donor
Vunak

ESO is just a hidden tab target game. If we are defining that as action combat because you move a lot then we have to define WoW as action combat as well because you move a lot in that game and its pretty fast paced at higher levels of play.

TERA you have to aim everything. There is no assistance or “soft-targeting”. Also TERA’s animation lock really isn’t even felt at higher levels because you can cancel and clip just about every animation in the game, which makes it feel way more fluid and impactful in choice and decisions at endgame compared to games like Wildstar or ESO where you float across the ground or have soft targeting. The funny thing is he says BDO is okay, but BDO has animation lock as well, but you can clip animations just like in TERA but you can do it at an earlier level than TERA.

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tony quinn

Tera is a joke for action combat you get locked in place for certain casting, BDO is not bad but honestly Wildstar has the most free movement combat I have ever experienced.

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Vunak

Wildstar is okay but it was pretty much all on a single axis. I liked wildstar a lot I mean I was the top rated stalker in RBGs and arena for awhile so I have pretty good knowledge of the game. But it was extremely float and you really didn’t need to aim to much since everything was largely Aoe telegraphs

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Armsbend

“I never understood why they didn’t take this game to the next level.’

Because it is the most popular MMO. If they broke it they risk losing that.

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tony quinn

Use to be the most popular and quite frankly if they couldn’t release this game with a upgraded platform it would say a lot about blizzard. But everyone has their own opinion.

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Red Galaxie

World of StarCraft! Or just some sort of new mmorpg.

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Golconde

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Loyheta
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Loyheta

We’ll probably be able to get it by buying Landmarkcraft.

Loyheta
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Loyheta

In an attempt to get me back, they will announce a full fledged housing system for WoW. They will be met with weak applause and my sub :P

Maybe a new warcraft game or a movie for china

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starbuck1771

LOL Elliot so true: a certain populous group of gamers acts like this is the most important event in the world and like Blizzard’s many examples of mismanagement don’t count, while another group acts like Blizzard ruined everything ever forever and they can’t let you know loudly enough.

The bad this is some people don’t realize they are doing it. I like WoW but can smack talk it from time to time too. People have to just get over themselves. WoW didn’t destroy the genre other company’s Dev’s did that on their own trying to compete with WoW. You can’t blame Blizz for having the better product at the time. The reason WoW was and is popular is because you don’t need a super computer or state of the art graphics to play it. That’s also where other games fail because every kid want’s high end graphics and everything and the game company’s pander to them.

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Serrenity

You know, I think this is the only market in the world where players/consumer will fault a studio for having a better product than the-apple-of-their-eye for the moment. Kinda made me chuckle, in a world where fight back against lockboxes and exploitative monetization tactics we also condemn the single most successful game in history … that also doesn’t have lock boxes

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Danny Smith

I’ve not touched WoW in a long time. Dreanor kill it for me and i actually tried Legion but got a refund i disliked it that much. They would have to really lose the “mechanics designed purely as sub traps” model and i dont see that happening any time soon.

But if the rumours are true its going to be interesting to see what happens when they finally exhaust the last of WoW’s existing lore and have to go somewhere new.

wpDiscuz