blizzard entertainment

Major gaming studio, responsible for World of Warcraft and the Warcraft franchise, Diablo III and the Diablo franchise, Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm, and Overwatch.

Overwatch hits 30M players, makes Chinese free-to-play test plans

Blizzard has just announced that Overwatch has just counted 30 million players. That’s buyers, mind you, as the game is buy-to-play.

However, a limited free-to-play Overwatch is actually happening, albeit with two caveats: It’s only going to be for the month of May, and it’s only rolling out in China. Blizzard announced that all heroes and all maps will be available for free from May 1st through the 31st in China. The only exception is competitive mode, which will not be available for the F2P crowd. Players can take the game out for a spin and even keep their progress if they purchase the game after that month.

Meanwhile, Overwatch fans who are a little peeved at having to play Heroes of the Storm to earn special skins should be consoled by the word that these skins will eventually come to Overwatch’s lootboxes in the future. Anything else Blizzard can do for you? Fluff your pillow? Tell you a bedtime story? OK then.

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World of Warcraft breaks a popular add-on for world quests to fix performance issues

The current flow of clearing World Quests in World of Warcraft is pretty straightforward. You see that there’s a world quest out there offering a reward you want, you head for it, you’ve got an hour left. You reach the location, then you find other people killing everything around you and not letting you get a hit in. Well, unless you were using World Quest Group Finder, which allowed you to auto-form and auto-join ongoing groups, ensuring that you were always in the right group to take on group or solo quests as you arrived.

You know where this is going. The addon’s functionality has been prevented with the latest update by Blizzard.

Lest you think this was a purely malicious act, the official rationale is that the addon was causing serious performance issues affecting everyone in the game, and by forcing manual prompts rather than automatically forming groups players will enjoy a smoother play experience. At the same time, it was a popular addon which shored up a major weakness in the world quest structure, so players are quite unhappy that it’s not working. The most recent update to the addon alters its functionality to still provide utility despite the changes, but it’s still going to require more work than just showing up and teaming up from here on out.

Source: Official Forums, Addon Page; thanks to Sally for the tip!

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World of Warcraft walks back claim that 7.2 is the ‘biggest patch ever’

In a livestream Q&A sessionWorld of Warcraft’s Ion Hazzikostas admitted that the studio probably shouldn’t have slapped the label of “biggest patch ever” on Patch 7.2. The game director said that this was an objective measurement of all of the content that was included, but not every player would experience all of it due to the variety.

Hazzikostas fielded several questions about the gradual unlocking of Patch 7.2’s content, including the still-to-come raid. He said that the unlock schedule for Tomb of Sargeras will come in May, with the raid opening up sometime in mid-to-late June. Another raid is reportedly in the works for Patch 7.3 on Argus.

Other topics discussed were the cross-realm zone lag, why Blizzard isn’t scaling players for the artifact challenge, paragon emissary chest rewards, the Legion assault schedule, and why the studio isn’t awarding Legionfall rep for the assaults (spoiler: It’s a dumb reason). You can watch the full Q&A below!

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Massively Overthinking: Are MMORPG players a minority in their own genre?

Deep in the comments of the MMOs-vs.-survival-sandboxes thread from last week, reader miol_ produced a beautiful comment about how MMO players have become a minority in their own genre, which he then expounded upon for us in this provocative email.

“I’ve reached the opinion, that since the launch of WoW and its clones, the ‘original’ MMO-playerbase became a minority in their own genre. Before, we were but hundreds of thousands of MMO players, but then came Blizzard with WoW and its legions of fans in the dozen of millions at its peak, starting to dictate what the new success of MMOs should look like. Even if we others tried to vote with our wallet and feet, we became a minority, having only a fraction of our initial influence, while many devs tried desperately time and again to find ways to get at least a portion of the new Blizzard playerbase.

“Am I wrong with that perception of history? Am I totally missing something? Or are ‘we’ are slowly becoming a majority again, now that WoW and its clones are seeing steadily declining numbers (instead of us winning more players to ‘our side’)? How do we lobby better for ‘our cause’? Or can we only wait and see, until the genre is small enough again? Or is it too late? Have we ourselves grown too far apart into our even more niche corners of personal taste since SWG, while production costs and our demands for production value have skyrocketed at the same time? How could we come closer again?”

Let’s tackle miol_’s questions in this week’s Massively Overthinking.

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World of Warcraft’s Dog makes the journey from garrison to Dalaran

World of Warcraft garrisons these days are a sad, lonely place. They’re still there, of course, languishing on Draenor as a monument to yet another Blizzard feature introduced and abandoned in the span of a single expansion. Yet there might be a way to bring a small bit of garrisons over to Legion — if you have sharp enough eyes for it.

Players have discovered that there’s a pebble on the streets of Dalaran that can be used to retrieve an old friend. By taking this pebble back to your garrison and showing it to fan-favorite Dog, Dog will relocate to the pet shop in the floating mage city. How? Because Dog is magic, apparently. So woofy. Very travel.

Don’t believe us? There’s a video showing off this Easter egg after the jump!

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Leaderboard: Where do you draw the line between griefing and roleplaying?

On the Morrowind subreddit a few days ago, a player was recounting a particular roleplay-slash-griefing episode on a hardcore-roleplay Ultima Online emulator. The player explains that he spent months roleplaying as a bartender serving drinks to the adventurers he befriended. But he was actually planning something far more nefarious:

“For over a year I roleplayed with these people as a simple barman, pretended to be their friend and confidant, and then during a harvest festival where every player on our server was in attendance and I was [paid] to provide the food and drink… I poisoned every last morsel of food, every drop of drink, and after the [regent] delivered his speech and all of these fools raised their goblets for the toast and took that deadly sip, I stepped onto the stage and revealed what had happened. They [were] all going to die, and die they did. Now this was a permanent death server (hardcore RPers, mind you), and some had been playing those characters for 8 years, and there they all were, collapsed and dying. Soon they were all unconscious, as you could only die if you went unconscious three times in one day or if a certain psychotic bartender came and cut off your head… which I did to every player in our group of 38. They were all there, and unfortunately so was I.”

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Popular World of Warcraft YouTuber passes away from cancer

On a sad note this week, a much-loved World of Warcraft YouTuber has passed away following a battle with a rare form of cancer.

In a video posted Monday, Hayven’s death was announced to the community. “Hayven passed away on the 18th of March, 2017, at 26 years old,” the video’s description says. “He was an inspiration to many and someone who cared immensely about his fans and community. Hayven had fought epithelioid sarcoma, a rare and severe form of cancer that usually affects teenagers and young adults.”

Hayven delivered an update about his cancer treatment back in January, saying that his health had taken a turn for the worse. His YouTube channel grew to over 55,000 subscribers and covered hundreds of videos dating all the way back to 2014, looking at the evolution of World of Warcraft over the years. Hugs go out to everyone in his family and community.

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Heroes of the Storm overhauls game, adds Overwatch’s Genji, and gives away 20 free heroes

It is an absolutely massive week for Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm, so let’s dig into all of the news. Yesterday, the game launched its Patch 2.0 overhaul, which contains an improved progression and rewards system, the Hanamura battleground, a collections page, the introduction of gems as the premium currency of the game, and a brand-new hero: Overwatch’s Genji.

As part of the patch fun, Heroes also kicked off a multi-week quest chain called Nexus Challenge 2.0. By completing each of the four quests (which conclude on May 22nd), players can earn rewards in both Overwatch and Heroes of the Storm, such as a new D.Va officer skin, loot boxes, and motorcycle mounts. D.Va will most likely be the next hero to come to the game, according to a new cinematic.

If those aren’t enough freebies for you, Blizzard is giving away two score of free heroes to anyone who logs in: “All players who log in between April 25 and May 22 will receive 100 gems, which can be used to permanently unlock one Mega Bundle of their choice. Each Mega Bundle contains 20 Heroes and has its own theme: Assassin, Flex, Support & Specialist, and Tanks & Bruisers.”

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World of Warcraft’s Hazzikostas on content creep and the future of the game

Hey, it turns out that designing long-term MMORPGs that aren’t pump-and-dump schemes is hard!

That’s the takeaway from a new PC Gamer interview with Blizzard’s Ion Hazzikostas, during which the World of Warcraft game director admits to what the developers of the dozens of MMOs that came before WoW could’ve told Blizz had it, y’know, ever considered asking.

“We are becoming increasingly aware of the cost of any change we make that has ongoing maintenance and the risk of design bloat,” Hazzikostas says. “If we keep adding and adding with every expansion, eventually what we end up with becomes very unwieldy. It’s an issue that we weren’t cognizant enough of early on because we were in uncharted territory, but we are now.” Yeah, he said uncharted territory.

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Global Chat: Which MMO developer do you most appreciate?

Recently, Ravalation carried on an annual blogger tradition called Developer Appreciation Week. During this week, gamers would put aside their usual vitriol and criticism for devs to pen posts about the appreciated side of studios. It was certainly nice to see a bloom of positivity and praise, that’s for sure.

“If there’s something I’ve learned from my fellow participants during this year’s DAW it’s that 1) game developers work extremely hard purely because they love their games, 2) bugs frequently appear in complicated coding, and 3) devs are usually aware that bugs exist when content goes live and feel terrible about it,” she wrote.

Join us after the break for more MMO blog essays, including a tour of Star Citizen’s luxury ship, more thoughts on Secret World Legends, and the enduring love of a World of Warcraft fan.

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Massively OP Podcast Episode 114: Moving to the big city

What does a week where the news douses us in a shower of smaller stories look like? Bree and Justin wring out of their clothes, shaking loose tales of metropolises in the planning, console features, anniversary parties, and dance studios. Maybe it won’t flood the world of MMOs, but it definitely waters the lawns of our interest!

It’s the Massively OP Podcast, an action-packed hour of news, tales, opinions, and gamer emails! And remember, if you’d like to send in your own letter to the show, use the “Tips” button in the top-right corner of the site to do so.

Listen to the show right now:

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The Daily Grind: Do you believe MMO studios release overpowered new classes on purpose?

Yesterday’s Elder Scrolls Online press embargo drop allowed us to talk a bit more about the overpowered state of the Morrowind Warden class — in fact, Larry flat-out called it a Mary Sue. What surprised me about the ensuing discussion was how incredibly cynical our readers were in response to that (and to the general community uproar over the class). Quite a lot of you (and other highly engaged gamers) seem to believe that ZeniMax is releasing the Warden totally overpowered intentionally as part of its marketing strategy, and to some extent, it makes sense — you want to create hype for your game and get people to buy it, so make sure to pack in a badass, solo-friendly class that encourages fence-sitters to make that leap.

On the other hand, you risk ticking off a couple million existing players who don’t want their characters falling to the bottom of the heap or who don’t want to feel as if they have to reroll.

Do you believe studios like ZeniMax, Blizzard, and ArenaNet intentionally release overpowered new classes, planning to nerf and balance them later? And if so, is it the smart call?

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Overwatch pro player sees career ended over racist diatribe

It’s probably not the best idea to start shouting racial abuse in the middle of a live stream if you’re public figure with a pro gaming career.

That’s the lesson to learn from Toronto Esports player Matt “Dellor” Vaughn, who apparently started shrieking the N-word repeatedly (“for 26 uninterrupted seconds while his teammates sat in stunned silence,” PVP Live writes) over voice chat during an Overwatch stream, which one of his viewers then uploaded to YouTube for posterity.

The diatribe caused Toronto Esports to end Vaughn’s contract:

“Toronto Esports is an organization built on inclusivity, and we have always had a zero- tolerance policy for any forms of discrimination. Immediately upon learning of the incident, the player was interviewed, admitted to the offence, and was notified that his contract with the organization was being terminated.”

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