Turns out that World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is already setting records well before it releases. How? Well, it had a very nice diorama at BlizzCon. A very nice, very big diorama, one that featured a huge number of attendee characters individually printed in 3-D and arranged on the sprawling battleground between the Horde and the Alliance. And said “very big diorama” apparently qualified as the largest video game diorama ever at 1,300 square feet. That is a lot of individual characters in a single diorama.
No, your characters were not in the mix if you were not at BlizzCon. We’re sorry.
Meanwhile, StarCraft II has gone more or less completely free-to-play, and the team behind it has decided to take the opportunity to rather thoroughly troll the people behind Star Wars: Battlefront II’s notably less-than-free business model. This segues nicely into the game’s newest commercial, which couldn’t possibly have been made just to joke about that… but is still pretty funny all the same.
First announced at BlizzCon earlier this month, StarCraft 2 is now free-to-play for anyone who would like to engage in Blizzard’s hit real-time strategy title.
This is free* with an asterisk, however; only the Wings of Liberty single-player campaign, all of its multiplayer content, and co-op commanders are included in this statement. The other three single-player campaigns have to be purchased separately**, although this comes with a double-asterisk to indicate that those who previously purchased Wings of Liberty can get Heart of the Swarm for free through December 8th.
Some players have noted that this isn’t technically the first time that StarCraft 2 offered a free-to-play option. The StarCraft 2 Arcade, which includes a fan-made MMO mod of the game, has cost nothing to use for quite some time now.
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!
During last weekend’s BlizzCon opening ceremonies, nothing got me like Hearthstone’s expansion presentation, and it’s not the first time Blizzard’s card game has done so. Maybe it’s the kind of thing you need to be an old-school WoW Alliance player to really get, but “you no take candle” as a serious theme had me rolling. Dumb inside joke? Executed to perfection? Check and check!
That said, I don’t play Hearthstone; I love everything about it but the card game aspect. I’m an MMO player, what can I say, and Hearthstone isn’t one. So where would I go if I wanted some of Hearthstone’s dorky but lovable humor here in our own home genre? What’s the funniest MMORPG?
Whether you play it now or not, chances are that your paths have crossed with World of Warcraft in the past. This is true of pretty much every MMO blogger I know, and as such, all of them have emerged over the weekend to offer their thoughts on BlizzCon’s classic server and Battle for Azeroth announcements. So what do they have to say?
On World of Warcraft Classic:
“Meanwhile, a lot of what Blizz said about WoW Classic was set in the future tense. It sounds like they had a small group do some research and found a viable path forward. Everything else, however, seemed to couched in ‘we will,’ ‘we’re going to,’ and ‘we want to.'” (The Ancient Gaming Noob)
It may be a ways away, but World of Warcraft Classic is on the road to becoming a reality. Blizzard posted at least two job openings for project team members as part of the effort to create the legacy version of the game.
While not revealing any specifics about the older version of the MMO, Blizzard’s listing is still a thrill to read: “Travel back in time to a World of Warcraft before the Mists of Pandaria parted, and before Deathwing broke the world. When Blackrock Mountain, the Temple of Ahn’Qiraj, and the floating citadel of Naxxramas were the most difficult challenges in Azeroth. The World of Warcraft team is working on bringing that world back to our players with Classic WoW, and we need engineers to help us bring the past into the present.”
Blizzard told fans at BlizzCon that WoW Classic would be a massive effort and that the studio was committed to making it happen and keeping it running as long as the main MMO operates.
On this week’s show, Justin and Bree dig into the exciting news from BlizzCon, mull over the troubles at Marvel Heroes, mourn the passing of a great studio, and cover a handful of MMO updates.
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:
Fans of certain Blizzard games are going to be waiting a while – possibly even a year – to start playing the cool stuff revealed at BlizzCon. Others will have less time to wait. Overwatch fans, for example, can jump on the game’s test server right now to take Moira’s chemical onslaught for a spin, mixing up both damage and healing in a different fashion. If you’ve been waiting for the chance to assemble your perfectly balanced Talon team, now you can do that.
Of course, there are other elements being tested with this patch, including several balance tweaks for Ana and Mercy and general bug fixes. But Moira’s the big centerpiece right here. If you missed seeing her reveal trailer, we’ve embedded that past the break; otherwise, go ahead and get the test server installed to see what she’s capable of.
As the World of Warcraft community grapples with the surprise BlizzCon announcement of a classic server, one subset of players in particular are feeling the impact of this statement more than anyone else. The WoW emulators that have been the center of the vanilla movement find themselves at a crossroads of what to do now that Blizzard is getting ready to officially deliver what they are already illegally doing.
Overwhelmingly, there was rejoicing among several of the emulator communities at the announcement. The Elysium Project said that it will continue to run its servers even after Classic’s release, saying, “We will continue to provide whatever services the community desires should Blizzard not meet expectations.” On the other hand, the newly formed Light’s Hope team announced that it plans to shut down its server when WoW Classic launches.
I think it’s safe to say, after all the Nostalrius and legacy server drama from last year, that Blizzard has surprised a lot of people by actually keeping its word to build out some form of classic servers, as announced at BlizzCon last weekend. And the English-language WoW world lost its collective minds, if the 10K-word, 54K-upvote thread that rocketed to the top slot across the entirety of Reddit last Friday is any guide.
The thing is, the studio didn’t actually talk much about the servers other than to say they’re happening, they won’t take resources from WoW, and they’re operating under a separate team – there’s not much to talk about, just basic infrastructure. That probably means we’re a long way off. On the other hand, Blizzard seems serious about making a commitment to the community on this one, which makes it really enticing to me at least, way more than I expected.
How about you? Will you be playing World of Warcraft’s Classic servers? Or are you in wait-and-see mode until we know much more?
We were all prepared for the lack of Diablo III news from BlizzCon, in spite of the franchise’s huge following. But what we we didn’t anticipate was the demand for Diablo II and Warcraft III, especially in light of the announcement of World of Warcraft Classic and the free-to-play conversion of StarCraft II.
Turns out that Blizzard does have its eye on remastering both games, but it’s not ready yet. As Blizzard Senior Producer Peter Stilwell told PCGN, Warcraft III in particular needs a whole lot of balancing and a new map pool to satisfy tourney players.
And as for Diablo II? Hackers are the real threat.
“With Diablo [II] the big one is the botters and the spamming is out of control, [people asking] could we please fix that,” Stilwell admits. “Keep rolling seasons but maybe eventually be good enough at combating them that you see real names at the top of the leaderboard again.”
Toxicity in online gaming is easily one of the biggest stories of the year, particularly in Overwatch, where Blizzard has been focusing its anti-toxicity efforts with such persistence that it’s almost become silly. And yet here we are, with the problem unsolved and a whole lot of people sure it’s unsolveable or content to direct victims to just “ignore” it.
So how bad is it? Eurogamer collected clips of female gamers and streamers being harassed via voice chat in Overwatch and toted them to BlizzCon, showing them to attendees who agreed to be interviewed about their reactions and their own experiences. Forewarning if you’re going to watch the video below: The clips are awful and will make you angry once you realize they aren’t parody. The worst part? Most of the men and women Eurogamer interviewed basically all have that same stony look on their faces that I currently have on mine because it’s par for the course – and it’s just the misogyny brand of toxicity. The video doesn’t even touch on racism or homophobia.
The release of World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth is going to bring with it a lot of core system changes. This is neither surprising nor unwelcome. We’ve also been warned for ages that we won’t be carrying Artifacts forward, and at this year’s BlizzCon we got our first glimpse at the system that will ultimately replace that system in terms of gameplay, the Heart of Azeroth.
I usually find what works pretty well as a quick litmus test for systems like this is to see how fast we all “get” the system in the newsroom. If some of us are confused as to how the system is supposed to work, it’s not being explained all that well. And I can’t tell you that the Heart of Azeroth has been particularly well-explained so far; it’s a straightforward and positive change to the game, but we’ve had better-explained systems. So let’s take a look at how things are meant to work, based on what we know now.