blizzcon 2016

Blizzard is considering WoW competitive raiding e-sports again

If you were annoyed by the apparent subsumption of World of Warcraft art and lore panels by other games' e-sports at last year's BlizzCon, prepare to keep on being annoyed: A new interview on PCGamesN suggests that Blizzard is very much not giving up on e-sports for WoW.

In fact, Blizzard E-Sports Director Kim Phan told the publication that the studio sees "an opportunity" in renewed attention on the 2004 MMO and its competitive raiding scene, which as PCGamesN points out seems a belated reaction, given how many raiding guilds have already signed off from the current meta over the grind.

How might Blizz approach this? Says Phan,

"We've been doing the live raid races for a long time, just to see which team can do it better - that's still competitive. It's not your traditional eSports where it's two teams head to head, the dungeon races is another one. Even though you're not going head to head with another player, I think that's exciting to see. [...] We have experimented last year and we're going to continue to experiment this year. Now, whether or not we make it a big program with prize money and all of that stuff - I don't think that's the only thing that defines eSports anymore. For me, eSports is just being able to watch to see who the best is at something."

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The Elysium WoW emulator community is in total meltdown

The Elysium World of Warcraft private server community is in total meltdown, so popcorn at the ready.

Most MMORPG players would probably have never heard of Elysium but for Nostalrius, the WoW emulator that was C&D'd by Blizzard last year and then went on to agitate for official vanilla servers, blowing its momentum after BlizzCon by handing its source code and characters over to Elysium to run from the Ukraine, only to then change its mind last month and ask for the code back.

Elysium agreed to Nostalrius' requests, but things have gone south for its own game this past week when an emu YouTuber and concomitant agitators accused the top echelons of the Elysium team of everything from manipulating loot tables and unbanning hackers for under-the-table cash to participating in Chinese gold selling and botting schemes and being shadow-run by (former) network partner Crestfall. They probably also did Watergate, I don't know.

(Incidentally, Crestfall has already cut ties with Elysium as of this afternoon, citing "strong evidence of corruption in high-ranking members of [Elysium's] staff.")

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WoW emu Elysium suffers serious 'database compromise'

One of the downsides of grey-market game emulators for the end-user is that security isn't always a priority. Case in point? Elysium suffered a database compromise yesterday.

Elysium, you'll recall, is one of many illegal overseas World of Warcraft emulators, this one in the news of late particularly because the infamous Nostalrius server code and characters were rehomed there following the Nostalrius meltdown after BlizzCon. More recently, Elysium agreed to remove all traces of Nostalrius following the latter group's expressed desire to put its days of piracy behind it and embrace more legitimate legacy WoW community activism.

Elysium's devs pulled the game and the official website last night, citing a gold hacking incicent on one of the PvP servers.

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Nostalrius has decided handing its WoW emu code to Elysium wasn't such a good idea after all

So here's a twist in the Nostalrius saga that we didn't see coming: The group has changed its mind about supporting its code on the Elysium servers and in fact has asked Elysium to stop using it, which would effectively shut down the new legacy servers.

The group originally ran a large vanilla World of Warcraft emulator under the name Nostalrius, which shut down last year following a C&D letter from the IP owner, Blizzard. Its admins sought to turn the voluntary closure into a catalyst for eliciting official legacy servers from Blizzard itself, drafting a 276,000-signature petition and meeting with Blizzard's top brass in an attempt to convince the studio to serve that fanbase.

But as BlizzCon drew near after the launch of Legion, the Nostalrius admins turned to threats. "If Blizzard doesn't make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will," they famously wrote. Blizzard didn't talk legacy at BlizzCon, so Nostalrius announced it would release its code to the community and allow the (much more legally inaccessible) Ukraine-based Elysium group to restart a PvE and PvP Nostalrius emu under its banner, which is precisely what started up in December, with the most recent server launching this past week.

Now Nostalrius says that it believes its actions ran contrary to its goals.

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Diablo III's Darkening of Tristram 'retrovision' anniversary event is live

Classic ARPG Diablo has made its presence known across Blizzard's many franchises this week as it celebrates its 20th birthday, from a new cow level mini-event in World of Warcraft to Overwatch's Diablo-themed sprays. But the biggest celebration is taking place inside Diablo III, where as originally promised at last fall's BlizzCon, the Darkening of Tristram event is now live, complete with patch notes, and will dominate the game this January (and future Januaries).

"For the month of January, experience an homage to the original events of Diablo, brought to you in glorious RetroVision™ and filled to the brim with nostalgia-inducing features. An evocative audiovisual extravaganza awaits you, as everything from familiar enemies to iconic items have been brought to life in the Diablo III engine. Transmogrification rewards, achievements, and a handful of extra surprises lurk in the depths of this perilous, pixelated dungeon."

The update -- and the controversial "retrovision" event content -- is free for Reaper of Souls owners. Expect the paid Necromancer update later this year.

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MMO Year in Review: New Eden free-for-all (November 2016)

This year, we’re taking a time-machine back through our MMO coverage, month by month, to hit the highlights and frame our journey before we head into 2017.

Early in November, EVE Online's Ascension expansion ushered in a new free-to-play chapter for the sci-fi sandbox (no matter how much they tried to get us to use "clone state"!) and boosted its concurrent numbers back over 50k.

Meanwhile, BlizzCon gave us a clearer picture of Blizzard's anemic-but-better-than-usual plans for Diablo III and its relatively rapid cadence plans for World of Warcraft in the post-Legion era. The Nostalrius saga reared its head again too as the emulator made plans for a relaunch. RIFT's Starfall Prophecy expansion also rolled out to players.

Read on for the whole list!

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Perfect Ten: Biggest MMORPG surprises of 2016

Back at the beginning of December, I posted a list of what I considered to be the biggest MMORPG stories of 2016. However, there were notable exceptions in that list of news that fans thought should be included. Unbeknownst to them but knownst to me, I had a second list in the works: the biggest MMO surprises of 2016.

That's right! Today we're going to revisit all of the big news that pretty much nobody saw coming (and if they say they did, they're lying, but let them have it - it's what they live for in this internet age). Being surprised by this genre is one of the reasons why I love writing for Massively OP -- you never quite know what will pop up on any given day.

Sure, some surprises are sour and unwelcome, but others can be delightful and exciting. We've got both on this list, so let's wrap up this year by seeing what stories gave us double-takes and were the buzz on everyone's lips!

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The new Nostalrius emulator suffered six DDOS attacks on launch day

Apparently some folks are taking the relaunch of the Nostalrius servers very badly: Team Elysium, the group behind the newest World of Warcraft emulator, say that on launch day, it was suffering a total of six simultaneous DDOS attacks. Indeed, the website is still intermittently wandering offline as we write this a day later.

That wasn't the only problem; the team also reported a rollback relating to incorrect items, PvP server issues that delayed its launch, and lag and login issues compounded by an apparently intentional banwave. The seeming popularity of the server likely explains a lot of the problems, as the Elysium says it's seen just shy of 80,000 accounts created, more than half of which are from the original Nostalrius:

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25000 people have signed up for the new Nostalrius server so far

According to a tweet by the original folks behind Nostalrius, the new version of the World of Warcraft classic emulator has already (or only, depending on your read) seen 25,000 accounts generate a key.

Yesterday, the new masters of the emulator opened registration for former Nostalrius players, who were able to generate a token to transfer their characters to the new servers.

Nostalrius has previously claimed that prior to the C&D letter that prompted its shutdown, it had between 150,000 and 220,000 "active" accounts with as many as 800,000 total. The petition asking Blizzard to consider legacy servers stands at 276,000 signatures since April.

Back before BlizzCon, the admins of the sunsetted illegal World of Warcraft emulator Nostalrius issued a threat as part of this year's until-then-ongoing conversation with Blizzard regarding official vanilla or legacy servers. "If Blizzard doesn't make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will," they wrote. Blizzard didn’t take the bait, so Nostalrius announced it would release its code to the community and allow a rival emulator, the Ukraine-based Elysium, to restart a PvE and PvP Nostalrius emu under its banner, which is precisely what's happening this weekend.

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Elysium gears up for Nostalrius emu character transfers and relaunch

Back before BlizzCon, the admins of the sunsetted illegal World of Warcraft emulator Nostalrius issued a threat, demanding that the game studio create official vanilla or legacy servers. "If Blizzard doesn’t make an announcement to honour their own core values, be sure that we will," they wrote. Blizzard didn't take the bait, so Nostalrius announced it would release its code to the community and allow rival emulator Elysium to restart Nostalrius under its banner.

A new post from the Elysium owners has since confirmed previously announced plans that its team, now tripled in size, will launch the PvE and PvP Nostalrius servers simultaneously on Saturday, December 17th. Registration for those servers begins today.

"We will not be taking direct ownership of the existing Nostalrius database, but are transferring your characters from Nostalrius to Elysium," the team says. Players will need to create an account with Elysium, generate a token on the Nostalrius website, then use that to transfer their characters from the old emu to the new.

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Nostalrius is resurrecting next week. Your move, Blizzard.

After a yearlong saga that involved the shutdown of an illegal World of Warcraft emulator, fan outcry, Blizzard's high-profile meet-and-greet with the emulator's devs, a BlizzCon without any legacy server announcements, and the threat to bring back the emulator, Nostalrius is poised to turn to a new chapter with its resurrection next week.

On December 17th, Nostalrius is scheduled to be reborn as Elysium, thanks to the Nostalrius crew releasing its source code to one of its biggest vanilla WoW rivals. Eurogamer reports that over 10,000 players concurrently stress-tested the Elysium servers in preparation for the relaunch. Character data from the old Nostalrius servers will be imported to Elysium, although there will also be fresh start servers available to those looking for a clean experience.

You can watch the Elysium server date announcement video below, and mull over the tagline of "build your own legacy."

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WoW Factor: Looking forward to World of Warcraft 7.2

It's been a little while, friends, but that happens. Last time I was making bets about what we'd see for World of Warcraft at BlizzCon, and as it happens I came up within a pretty solid margin of error. Since then, it's been a pretty straightforward few weeks of plugging away at the test server whilst punching at various enemies on the live servers, running through world quests, looking for Legendaries that never appear except by pure, blighted luck.

Of course, seeing as how luck has been the watchword of every part of this expansion to date, it's not exactly a surprise.

I could rant about that, obviously, but at this point it seems a little counterproductive and not particularly new; the fact that this expansion is a soup of random rewards with random stats at random intervals is a problem, but not one I haven't already discussed, and not one I want to dwell on right now. Instead, I want to focus on the patch after 7.1.5, because we've heard enough about 7.2 that I'm already looking forward to it, even though it's a way away. It's something every WoW expansion has tried to have, but this time it might actually get pulled off.

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The Daily Grind: Will players always trump NPCs as MMO PvP adversaries?

Prolific MOP commenter Sally Bowls posted a note last week that stood out to me as something we should all be seriously considering. Most of us, even those obsessed with science, came away from this year's BlizzCon StarCraft AI research project announcement with a faint yawn. But Sally sees it as the biggest news of the year.

"AI can now beat champion chess, Go, and Jeopardy players and drive RL, two-ton cars around other humans. We are approaching two gaming singularities: first is when all the best PvP players are NPCs not meatbags. Second is the MMO equivalent of the Turing Test. When you see another 'player' you can't really tell if it is a NPC or a player who does not speak your language."

Gamers have long believed that combat against players is the greatest challenge available; e-sports is predicated on it, as is every PvP sandbox. PvPers turn up their noses at "PvE carebears" -- players are cleverer than dumb old NPCs, or they once were. But Sally's right that AI is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and frankly, if we cranked it up, the NPCs ruling the "environment" part of PvE would kick our butts and out-think us at every turn.

What do you think about the future of AI in online games? Will players always trump NPCs as MMO PvP adversaries, or might we better anticipate a sea change in attitudes, a world where PvP is the scrub leagues and the real hardcore players will be pitting themselves against AI?

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