blizzard

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.

World of Warcraft’s new communities system aims to bring players together in Battle for Azeroth

Among the various features and additions coming with World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth this summer, communities has gotten buried in all of the excitement. Yet this tool may generate some excitement when players experience it in action.

Blizzard Watch has a preview up of how communities work now that an early version is up on the alpha server. Communities will allow players to create cross-realm groups in addition to regular guilds (guilds will automatically become their own communities as well). The idea is that players can fashion specific types of communities and keep everyone in touch across the game.

There is also an option to create groups based on Blizzard’s BattleTags, in case you want a community that spans multiple Blizzard titles.

The article notes that many of the community features have yet to be activated, so there is a lot that we have yet to learn about the flexibility and function of this system.

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One Shots: Tour guides

It turns out that MMORPG players really don’t need much prompting to go out and take a bazillion screenshots of their favorite in-game zones, as evidenced by the avalanche of photos generated by last week’s challenge.

SmugglerSteel kicks us off this this neon nightmare: “I knew exactly where I needed to tour in SWTOR for this one. I will always remember my first trip to Nar Shaddaa. I was blown away away by the color and aesthetic. I always thought it had a very Bladerunner inspired feel, yet still did it’s own thing.”

Like any good casino, Nar Shaddaa is designed so that players can never figure out how to leave. SmugglerSteel forwards his mail there now.

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The Game Archaeologist: Harry Potter Online

If all goes well, later this year we will finally be treated to an actual Harry Potter MMORPG in the form of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. While that will be a mobile ARG in the vein of Pokemon Go, it will still be a big step into the online space that MMO fans have been craving for nearly two decades now.

Obviously, Harry Potter continues to be a mammoth franchise for J.K. Rowling, Warner Bros., and Electronic Arts, which has handled the video game license over the years. While there have been single-player Harry Potter titles, especially on consoles, no MMORPG emerged even at the height of the IP craze that swallowed up Star Trek, Star Wars, Warhammer, and more. So why not?

The truth is that Harry Potter Online almost did happen. Its brief existence and development isn’t too well-known, even today, but the wasted potential has always tantalized me with what could have been. Using a time-turner, we will go back to the late 1990s today and peek in on a possible future that came to fruition.

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Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode departs from Blizzard to form new game studio

Without a doubt, one of the most vivacious and well-loved personalities at Blizzard Entertainment has been Ben Brode. The Hearthstone game director injected a lot of his fun-loving personality into all of the videos and appearances that he did, which is why it’s going to crush many to hear that he has decided to leave the studio after 15 years.

“I have made the incredibly difficult decision to embark on a new journey,” he announced on the forums. “Man, that was a hard sentence to type.”

Brode had spent a decade working on Hearthstone, and in his farewell letter, he states his pride in both the game and the team. “I have loved the silly memes, engaging in spirited debates, or even just being held accountable to our shared high standards for the game. We try to be highly available on social media, and I think our team helped push the envelope in this regard,” he said.

So what’s next for Brode? He’s helping to start a new company that will “probably make games.”

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World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth turns on Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har for character testing

The first batch of the second wave of allied races are available for testing now on World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth’s alpha test. Dark Iron Dwarves and Mag’har Orcs have been added to character creation, which means that if you want an Orc that’s slightly less corrupted or a Dwarf that’s extra-crispy, that’s now an option. And that’s just one of the many changes with the latest build, because of course it is.

Players can also experiment with new ability changes including a significant rework to Arcane Torrent (the Blood Elf racial), more of the Uldir and Warfront sets, and new dungeons to test out. There’s also the miscellaneous elements found in the latest build, of course. We still don’t have an exact date for the beta, but based on all of the things that have been mined, it looks to be growing ever closer all the time.

Source: Wowhead (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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Massively Overthinking: What we really mean when we talk about ‘difficulty’ in MMORPGs

Massively OP reader Steve wants us to revisit the Daily Grind on making death more meaningful without making it more annoying. His letter was long, so let me paraphrase a bit:

“It feels to me like underlying point was, ‘MMOs are too easy, so how do we make them harder?’ The question of video game difficulty is something that is seldom ever tackled head-on, as it tends to draw out a somewhat vocal minority. There are so many worthy topics about how people define difficulty, twitch skills vs. depth, easy vs. hard, difficulty vs. accessibility, easy vs. engaging, shallowness vs. depth, and so on. These are things I’d love to really see discussed more online, and very few sites will actually touch it. But I think that MOP’s community is overall mature enough to actually have some discussions about this without it devolving into a fist fight.”

I’m sure you’ll prove him right! Right, guys? Guys? So let’s talk about MMO difficulty in this week’s Massively Overthinking. What do we really mean when we talk about “difficulty” in MMORPGs? Are games easier than they used to be, and if so, is there something studios should do to change that?
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WoW Factor: Speculative classes for the future of WoW

If Allied Races show us anything, it’s that World of Warcraft is really in no danger of running out of new races to throw at us. This particular system is adding nearly twice as many new races in one expansion as we’ve had added during the entirety of the game’s lifespan thus far, there’s another one that looks to be set up for this as well (hello there, Vulpera), and there’s a deep roster of other options that people have asked to have for ages. Yes, it would take some work to retrofit Vrykul and Ogres, but considering the work going into new male orc poses, Zandalari Trolls, and Kul Tiran Humans, it is definitely not insurmountable work.

Of course, as I alluded to a while back, we sort of have a disconnect right now where we’ve got far more race options than class options. And while we’re awash in races, we seem to be in danger of running out of classes that can’t be pretty cleanly modeled by what’s already in the game. That doesn’t mean we can’t get any new classes, of course, but it’s hard to justify the inclusion of a Pirate class when we already have a Rogue spec doing everything such a class would theoretically offer. The inclusion of mechanical Hunter pets alone basically short-circuited talk about “Engineer” as a class.

Not that this means we’re out of options, of course; in fact, there’s still plenty of things left in the bank of known or reasoned class options that we can’t play just yet. So let’s talk about some of those options, and along the way I’m sure we can fit in some fun discussions about the difference between classes and hero classes.

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Perfect Ten: MMOs that claimed to be the first

We’ve all been there. We’re playing our favorite MMORPG and then self-appointed professors of game history start arguing in world chat about firsts — usually, which MMO was considered to be the “first.”

As much as we all like to feel and be right about something, the truth is that history is messy and often ill-defined, even history as recent as that of video games. If you go looking for clear-cut facts and definitions, you might end up with an assortment of maybes, possiblys, and who knowses.

So when it comes to “firsts” in MMOs, there’s a lot of debate over, well, pretty much everything. One thing that I have noticed while covering The Game Archaeologist for many years now is that studios do love claiming to be first in various aspects. Whether or not these firsts are legitimate or can be challenged is debatable, but I thought it would be interesting to compile these claims into a list for your enjoyment and future world chat arguments.

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Russia’s Telegram crackdown blocks access to WoW, EVE, and Guild Wars 2

If you play Guild Wars 2, World of Tanks, EVE Online, or World of Warcraft in Russia, you may find that access to these titles has become spotty or non-existent as of late. This is due to the Russian government cracking down on the Telegram messenger app, which came under fire for essentially allowing people to communicate without being spied upon by intrusive government agencies (and then refusing to grant said agencies backdoors into the system). Over 20 million IP addresses have been blocked in the country as of April 17th, a move that has affected many services and sites not related to Telegram.

The crackdown has basically shut down access to the login servers of Guild Wars 2 and EVE Online for some, prompting outrage and frustration among players who suddenly were not able to access their games.

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Hearthstone’s newest expansion has a new card that’s causing balance issues… with animations

When a new expansion arrives in Hearthstone, there will be balance issues. That’s almost inevitable; you know it’s going to happen, it’s part of the nature of the beast. What seems a little bit unusual is the fact that this particular card is causing balance issues simply due to animation locks. The legendary Shaman card Shudderwock is causing problems due to the nature of its special abilities, which replays every single Battlecry effect on your side of the board through the whole game.

This is obviously powerful, but this can also wind up cycling through an extensive and long animation cycle that ultimately leaves your opponent unable to actually play, which is clearly not an intended function of the card. The functionality will be revisited next week, so hopefully players will not long have to suffer a strategy of winning via animation locks. There’s a charming meta nature to it, but it still feels cheap.

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Bot-maker Bossland’s legit game flops, Germany rejects Blizzard’s US court victory and won’t enforce damages

Are you surprised to be hearing about Bossland again? We’re surprised to be reporting on it. The German-based botmaker made headlines for the last few years thanks to ongoing litigation provoked by its sale of cheat, bot, and hack programs for multiple Blizzard games. Blizzard had pursued Bossland across multiple continents in an attempt to shut down the cheat programs, which Blizz argued violated its copyrights and cost it significant amounts of money to fight – money it was therefore not spending on its own games and customers. The drama finally culminated in 2017 with victories for Blizzard in a German Supreme Court ruling and a California federal court case that awarded Blizzard $8.5M in damages.

Though the German courts recently ruled not to enforce the US court’s decision (on the grounds that it considered the minimum statutory damages awarded to be excessive and punitive), Bossland ended sales for almost all of its hacks at the end of last year; as of today, the only ones remaining are for non-Blizzard games, specifically Final Fantasy XIV and Path of Exile, though according to the group’s latest newsletter, there’s a PUBG one tucked on the forums too.

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Tencent is bringing mobile OARPG Raziel westward for your clicking pleasure

If OARPGs with Torchlight-esque graphics are your thing and your mobile device packs a punch, then feast your eyes and wallet on Raziel. Gaming behemoth Tencent has apparently picked up the title from developer Indra to port to phones and tablets in the west this year. It’s already out in Australia.

Raziel is a fast-paced, hack-n-slash style RPG with a range of multiplayer and guild gameplay modes. Featuring advanced Unity 3D graphics, fast and flexible gameplay, and a diverse collection of characters and maps, the visually stunning adventure sets a new standard for mobile gaming.”

The game boasts four playable toons (with more as you go), a companion system so you can drag an NPC along with you (a la Diablo), more than 60 singleplayer dungeons. Tencent is calling this a “revolutionary MMORPG,” for what it’s worth, but the “massive” seems to focus on basic co-op and 1v1, 2v2, and guild battle-style PvP.

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The Daily Grind: Which MMO has the dumbest armor?

Back in February, PC Gamer put out a piece on the absolute dumbest character armor in gaming history. There’s more than one MMORPG in the list, including World of Warcraft (Arthas’ Lich King armor) and Lineage 2 (Dark Elf string armor). Bizarrely, City of Heroes made the roster too for that one dude from The Lost faction with a TV helmet. The best part is the commentary from an actual real-life armorer (they’re basically all the equivalent of “you’ll shoot your eye out, kid”).

I thought it would be fun to dig further into MMOs for even more dumb armor. Me, I’ll vote for anything where the shoulders would poke me in the eye, anything I would legit wear clubbing, and anything that proves definitively that the designer has no idea how actual boobs work.

Which MMO has the dumbest armor? Post pics if you have them!

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