Massively Overthinking: The best and worst of BlizzCon 2017

Last weekend, even Massively OP was obsessing over BlizzCon, and we thought it would be fun to poll the writers, including those who watched from the sideliness rather than diving into the liveblogging, on their assessments of the event, particularly as they pertain to the MMORPG industry. What were the highlights and lowpoints? Where do we stand on World of Warcraft’s new expansion and classic servers? Let’s dig in!

Andrew Ross (@dengarsw): Let’s start with the WoW expansion announcement. While the cinematics were cool (as always), as soon as I heard it was another Alliance vs Horde expansion, I thought, “Again?” The Heart of Azeroth thing sounds a bit like a more complex version of, say, Albion’s crafting system that makes character customization controlled with armor for flexibility, except it’s also tied to class in WoW. That’s not exactly a good thing. Killing PvP servers was the last thing I wanted to hear, but it does fix the problem of “I’m only on a PvP server because my friends came here.” The sub-races thing is neat but it just seems… I don’t know, too little too late? Same goes with the naval stuff, since that usually gets me more excited for a game. Classic servers for the nostalgia crew is nice since there’s an audience, but if it’s not yet obvious, I’ve accepted my WoW past and don’t need to relive it.

The only thing that really caught my attention was communities, but I’m guessing these will be purely social chat channels. It’s the only thing I’ll be waiting to hear more about.

The Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone announcements weren’t enough to get me to play, but I did log into the latter for the free card because I didn’t have to do much. StarCraft II going free to play was a huge shock, though. I don’t think I’ll ever check it out because there are so many other games in my backlog, but if Blizz did something big to get my friends playing again, I might be tempted to give it a whirl.

For me, the big stuff was with Overwatch. I struggle with the game’s lore, in that it may be my favorite Blizz IP these days, but the story largely feels like it’s outside the game, and that’s weird. That being said, an amoral healer is awesome in concept, even if her design looks like it belongs in a different game (RIP Battleborn). The BlizzWorld Map and skins look and sound fun, and again, I’m not even that big of a Blizz fan. In fact, it hyped me up enough to keep playing the Overwatch even after the holiday event, on both PC and PS4 (the former is better; the latter is because people I know don’t PC game anymore).

Random parting notes: We need Mama Hong from the OW concept design panel. Seemed like there were positive vibes, and I’ve been told that attendees smelled fresher this year. So many Blizz Con attendees were at Universal Studios on the following Sunday – eat it, Disneyland!

Fighty fight-fight.

Brianna Royce (@nbrianna, blog): The Battle for Azeroth expansion left me a little bit bored from a player perspective, but to be honest, I exited in the middle of Draenor and didn’t buy Legion, so I’ve been waiting for WoW to do… something… to bring me back for two years already. Is this it? Because there isn’t anything in it that makes me really excited. I don’t care about procedural-gen quest pockets or mini races or warfronts or WarCraft III allusions. There’s nothing new like farms (I loved farms) or crafting overhauls or cosmetics emphasis to make me enjoy logging in every day. What actually made me want to play the most, out of all the WoW presentations, was when a developer (or maybe it was a Q&A questioner?) casually mentioned his Monk healer. That, and character customization. Those things got me, made me remember how much I loved and missed my toons. So, hmm. Undecided still.

On a self-serving note, I’m glad to see the PvP server overhauls because my server was quite lopsided and ganky, but there was no way my whole guild was paying to move a zillion toons off a PvP server.

The WoW Classic announcement surprised me because it came after a year of Blizzard barely talking about it at all after that series of promises to look into it. I’m definitely intrigued, but I also remember the first couple of years of actual vanilla very well and all their many aggravations and design problems. I think there’s way, way too much we still need to know about the details before picking a side on this one. Based on the Reddit activity over the last week, I can also see the playerbase splitting into some man-made factions that I don’t think Blizzard has fully anticipated. However, I’m happy to see Blizzard make promises to maintain classic and provide classic players a home that isn’t a pile of thieving garbage like certain popular emus.

The Overwatch and Hearthstone reveals absolutely cracked me up, as I mentioned this morning. I still have no intentions of ever playing either game, but man I love to see silly humor executed with such precision as the BlizzardWorld map and the you-no-take-candle expansion. I feel like humor is much harder to get right, but I’m smiling along with the cheese instead of rolling my eyes at yet-another-melodrama.

I remain disappointed about the lack of Diablo news. Diablo II was actually my first introduction to Blizzard period and literally created my ongoing infatuation with ARPGs. It’s sad to see the king of the genre floundering here for no clear reason.

Eliot Lefebvre (@Eliot_Lefebvre, blog): Let’s do this game-by-game.

Diablo III: lol

Hearthstone: Good on these guys for trying something really, aggressively new. It doesn’t make me love Hearthstone, no, but I really respect and appreciate the effort that went into making a card game roguelike and then putting it forth as a free thing. Bully for the team, and a really captivating reveal (and set design).

Overwatch: How many millions of dollars did that Reinhardt short cost? Because at the end of the day, it succeeded in doing nothing more than telling us that young Reinhardt was… young Reinhardt. Seriously, I could rant for a long while about how badly Blizzard is bungling storytelling with this property. On the flip side, Moira is awesome (thematically).

StarCraft II: kek

Heroes of the Storm: Did this game actually have more of a narrative reveal than Overwatch? Yes. Otherwise, well, it’s new heroes. Functional but nothing exciting.

World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth: As a lore wonk and, well, me, I saw lots of things that immediately had me really excited. This has me more excited than Legion did, and Legion was a solid expansion (with some serious issues that Battle for Azeroth seems poised to address, at least in part), but I think the delivery wound up coming off a little muddled and not really conveying the cool factor in there. Then again, I can’t entirely blame the studio here; out of seven expansions, three of them have had similar problems with having a hard time selling themselves from the outset. I’m excited, even though that feels like the minority option this time.

World of Warcraft: Classic: Judging by the number of people who apparently assumed “classic” meant “just like vanilla but with quality-of-life improvements that we think of as normal other than group finder,” I’m mostly just interested in this one for the crashing-back-to-reality factor. It’s nice from an archival standpoint, I suppose, but I’ve already played this when it was just called “World of Warcraft.”

Back and forth, indeed.

Justin Olivetti (@Sypster, blog): Like many of our readers, my mind is still swirling and spinning about World of Warcraft Classic. That was the real bombshell announcement, and it is a shame that Blizzard didn’t have more specifics to share. I know there’s a lot of excitement about it, but there are also a ton of unanswered questions about how this will work. At the very least, I’m interested to see this get off the ground from a historian’s standpoint because I wish more MMOs would add legacy servers like this.

Otherwise, it was a decent show that spread the love around to every one of Blizzard’s games save Diablo III. Hearthstone had the best set, hands-down, and Overwatch’s BlizzardWorld map completely overshadowed the new hero announcement. I do think that the Battle for Azeroth announcement fizzled when it should have sizzled, and I was cringing at how some journalists were clearly trying to force excitement about it when it was really a mediocre reveal. Oh, and a cinematic trailer has nothing to do with actual gameplay, so why are we devoting so much attention to these? It feels like smoke and mirrors when studios try to push our emotional buttons with Blur-like trailers that, at best, convey an idea that a game can never quite attain.

MJ Guthrie (@MJ_Guthrie, blog): While I don’t pay any attention to BlizzCon (this is me we are talking about), one bit of information did seep through into my consciousness: vanilla WoW servers. Good move, I say, for recognizing that there really is a market for “back in the day…” It depresses me how much our society gets caught up in the newer-faster-easier-is-better hype! Devs are no different. Sure, there is a legitimate market for that, but there is also also one for folks who liked the experience of the more original versions of games. You can’t stop change from happening in life, but there is a way to add a place where it doesn’t happen in your MMOs. Adding vanilla servers supported by the developers gives that place for those who want to be there while also allowing the main game to continue to evolve and grow for players who want to enjoy that journey. It makes more customers happy.

Also, there is a side of me that enjoys the put-your-money-where-you-mouth-is aspect of this all. How many of those who have been belting out for years about how vanilla <insert any game name here> was so much better and was the best game actually go in and play? Is it really viable, or were people just full of hot air? Is the memory better than the reality? I’m curious to see how it shakes out.

Your turn!

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15 Comments on "Massively Overthinking: The best and worst of BlizzCon 2017"

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Utakata

Yeah…the only one game I am interested that Blizzard develop, as you can tell from the pigtails that adorn my noggin. And it came up rather short like my stature. /sigh

bereman99
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bereman99

The BfA announcement has me intrigued – the Horde vs Alliance conflict has waxed and waned over the years as they wanted it to for the story (and I tend to be more accepting of story beats if the path of the plot that got there is reasonable), but it’s largely been marked by an overall sense of impermanence. Theramore might be the biggest departure from that, and that was using a “city” that wasn’t really used for much more than as a questing hub. It’s been a largely irrelevant facet of the story beyond moving the various characters and plot pieces into place for drama and conflict around a big bad of some sort.

Burning Teldrassil? Sieging Lordaeron? If these things stick (and with their sharding technology they can actually do that), then that potentially blows the door wide open on the conflict in a way we haven’t seen since the RTS days.

If it sticks.

Battle for Undercity had us barge in as Alliance and still leave it in the hands of the Horde. Imagine if this siege actually has it change hands permanently. Imagine that story-telling freedom across any number of other important locations.

Again, though, that’s currently a really big IF.

Also, it feels like they are using it as a reset of sorts, now that biggest and longest running baddie of the franchise is about to go down.

Disappointed that Diablo 3 was pretty much ignored. I don’t even think there was a “new Season coming up” reminder, at least not one that I remember.

WoW Classic – surprised me for sure, but didn’t surprise me that they are super early in the process of making it. Looking forward to it.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

Classic WoW announcement blew my Laurel Burch socks off. It’s pretty amazing how everyone instantly brought their own interpretation of what that means to be what it really means. It’s clear that Blizzard doesn’t even know what that means quite yet. Looking forward to how this story develops.

WoW expansion news left me cold. I’m waiting to see how the Heart interacts with armor and how viable the expansion is going to be for solo players. While I enjoyed Legion for the most part, I don’t do dungeons and was miffed at how stymied progression was without them. A first for me with WoW.

Starcraft is a game I know little about. I played RTSes years ago, the peak being Cossacks III and the Age of Empire titles, but none recently have gotten my attention. Nonetheless, I downloaded the starter and gave it a try. Played well and might be worth another look after it goes F2P.

Diablo 3 snubbed again, even if the snub was announced beforehand, it’s still a snub. “Yeah, I’m having a party. You’re not invited. Just so you know.” Ouch.

The other Blizzard titles, all of which I’ve played, don’t interest me particularly.

All the cinematics were great. Maybe this is the business Blizzard should go into?

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Armsbend

They did with the warcraft movie.

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TomTurtle

I’m curious to see how Classic turns out as well. It’s not that I don’t recognize people will genuinely enjoy it, but you can’t deny that there will be those whose nostalgia will come crashing down when they actually play it and those who’ll refuse to pay for it if it’s not free. And knowing Blizzard, it won’t be free, which is fine in of itself.

I’m glad that there will be an official version of vanilla that’ll give people a much better feeling of security in their investment to play.

One thing I’d love to mess around with is leveling up a shaman to try out windfury again. It was frustrating when it’d miss, but those lucky moments when it procced were glorious in its destructiveness. This is assuming the “broken” version is in. I can’t remember when it was changed, if that was still in vanilla or TBC.

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Dug From The Earth

The worst is clearly any lack of any new Diablo info of ANY kind.

– Nothing about a D1 or D2 Remaster
– Nothing about another D3 expansion
– Nothing about another D3 character DLC (Druid, Assassin, etc)
– Nothing about Diablo 4
– Nothing about a Diablo spin off game of any kind

Just plain nothing. Sure, they forewarned us that this was going to be the case, but that still didnt make it suck any less.

The best part… Blizzardworld… hands down.
I dont think there is a single blizzard fan who wouldnt want this thing to become a real life thing. Blizz said that it would cost billions, therefore it wouldnt be possible… then again, this is Blizzard we are talking about… its not like they dont have the money or ability to get the funding.

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Armsbend

They did it for Legos I don’t see any reason you couldn’t do it for a developer. The Chinese would come.

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Armsbend

Last year – Massively didn’t write nearly as much on WoW as they have after these bombshell announcements. That alone would make this the biggest con I can remember.

Lots of new posters I have never seen roaming about as well. Which is awesome! It’s like Blizzard shot a little adrenaline into the entire genre by pumping up their old game. It’s why I like them so much these days.

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Hirku

Best part of the show itself was the Hearthstone segment. I don’t play but I still had a great time watching. Best news from the show for myself was world scaling and especially the changes to PVP. I’m not on a PVP server but I don’t even want to see it around me, so if they can go thump each other out of sight that’s a win/win. I’ll be even more happy about the change if it means I don’t have to deal with NPCs getting continuously ganked when I’m trying to complete quests. BfA looked fine, not much feeling on it since new content is going to be the last thing on my mind for a long while yet. No interest in Classic, but I enjoyed the reveal.

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CMDR Crow

WoW Classic is awesome. I’ve been considering the potential pricing model, as certain options would be prohibitive, personally, and am fairly convinced that the likely model will be something along the line of a single box price. Most of this thought is because the game is “complete” and there will be no continued active development. WoW’s sub is really an outlier in Blizz’s pantheon, and the days of strong subs aren’t in front of us. Tying Classic to a WoW sub and/or needing the latest xpacs would bring up tons of issues (do you need BfA? What about when the next xpac comes? Classic players need to buy/sub a game they don’t play? Seems too rife with issues.) Tying Classic into the interwoven larger cross-server economies isn’t an option at all… so things like WoW Tokens throw another wrench into a unified sub idea. They could, conceivably, treat it like a stand-alone xpac, as well, requiring the stand-alone box and a WoW sub. However, unifying subs is, again, tricky. Unifying accounts would also be a nightmare for PR. I assume no cash shop mounts and pets, etc., so the existing cash shop doesn’t even serve Classic in a way that wouldn’t cause disruptions both in economy and experience.

There are so many factors. Can they post-sale monitize Classic? Blizzard is a company that doesn’t necessarily need to maximize their revenues for this effort, and their talk framing this about “archiving” and “history” feels like setting up an investor call strategy to sell (or already sell, more likely) Classic on both economic and “good vibes” grounds.

Over all, I’m leaning toward expecting this to be a rather accessible box price only release. Classic, itself, will weed out a lot of players (with Blizz getting their $50 for a few hours of nostalgia/history) and after a few months there will likely be a good core of players. I’m really looking forward to playing, but also know I’ll be pretty casual and slow going.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

Reminder: don’t forget all people who never played Vanilla, and they want to play it, or do play it on private servers but happy to see Blizzard announce Classic, they are not there for the memories.

Coolit
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Coolit

For me the Classic WoW announcement was the best news from Blizzcon, really can’t wait to see how it all works out and what is planned. The worst part, titanforging is still a thing.

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ensignedwards

StarCraft II going F2P is only surprising in that it’s been F2P for years. But Blizzard did do a very poor job of advertising that fact, and I suppose they finally realized that, so they shaved off some of the few remaining restrictions of non-paying players to make a big PR splash.

Mind you, none of this is criticism. StarCraft II is an excellent game on almost every level, so anything that gets more people playing it has my full support.

BfA’s announcement was an enormous disappointment. The faction war hasn’t been interesting since the first half of Warcraft III, and WoW’s fundamental mechanics as a game guarantee it will never go anywhere or have any real conclusion. So when Blizzard says “it’s an epic war between an Alliance and Horde” what they really mean is “this is a filler expansion because we’re running out of story threads.” Wake me when they get back to stuff that’s actually relevant.

As a rabid Blizzard fan for over twenty years, I found this BlizzCon hugely disappointing. The only thing that got me genuinely excited was the new co-op commanders for StarCraft II, who look hilarious and awesome. I eagerly anticipate being able to drop a space station on people I don’t like.

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Darthbawl

I scrolled right down to see what MJ was going to say. :P

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rafael12104

Same. Lol!

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